Malaysians' non-compliance with rules is pushing up Covid-19 cases

People visit a market in Pahang, Malaysia, on Jan 20, 2021.
People visit a market in Pahang, Malaysia, on Jan 20, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, XINHUA) - Not wearing face masks properly and a half-hearted attitude towards physical distancing are contributing to the high number of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia, say health experts.

"This can often be seen among service staff, food vendors, waiters at restaurants, construction workers and in offices in the private and government sectors," said Malaysian Medical Association president Subramaniam Muniandy.

There should be an increased presence of enforcement personnel and the authorities should consider employing undercover or plainclothes enforcement personnel to monitor outlets and offices, said Datuk Dr Subramaniam.

Professor Moy Foong Ming, from Universiti Malaya's Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, pointed out that more summonses were issued for not wearing face masks in the first three weeks of January this year compared to the first three weeks of December.

"We really need to understand why people are still not wearing masks when Covid-19 cases are so high. Is it because of SOP (standard operating procedure) fatigue, they believe that they will not get infected or they cannot afford masks?" said Prof Moy.

Purchasing single-use face masks could become a financial burden to low-income earners even though prices had dropped, she said, encouraging them to switch to reusable masks.

"It is not advisable to reuse single-use masks as they may be contaminated after a long day of use. Reusing it may put the person at risk of being infected with Covid-19," she said.

"Masks stop people - especially those who are asymptomatic - from unintentionally spreading the virus to others," Prof Moy added.

"For example, the risk of Covid-19 transmission between two people will be low if both are wearing masks, moderate if only one is wearing it and high when both are not using it."

When wearing a mask, the nose, mouth and chin must be covered, she said, adding that the mask should not be loose, especially on the sides.

"It should fit properly without affecting breathing. When removing a used face mask, hold only the ear loops. After disposing of the mask properly, one must wash both hands with soap and water," she said. "The same face mask should not be worn for more than eight hours and should be changed if it becomes moist."

Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah has recently reminded Malaysians to wear face masks properly.

"Do not pull the face mask to your chin. This is a face mask, not a chin cover," he said.

Malaysia on Wednesday reported 3,680 new Covid-19 infections, bringing the national cumulative total to 194,114, with 707 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.