DBKL cancels order for mandatory face masks in supermarkets, restaurants; now says only ‘encouraged’

Baba Dona Super Mart Lembah Pantai taking precautionary measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 infection by implementing social distancing March 22, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Baba Dona Super Mart Lembah Pantai taking precautionary measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 infection by implementing social distancing March 22, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 ― Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) today cancelled an order from two days ago that made it compulsory for face masks to be used by everyone including customers in supermarkets and restaurants here.

The KL mayor instead said today that the practice of wearing face masks was now “encouraged” in such premises.

In a new notice dated March 24 and posted on DBKL’s Facebook page today, the mayor however said such premises in Kuala Lumpur still have to make sure everyone practises social distancing or staying apart one metre from each other.

“All licensees, employees, visitors, customers and suppliers who wish to enter supermarkets, grocery stores, restaurants, public and private markets until this March 31, 2020 must: 1. adhere to social distancing of one metre, 2. Shop owners/ operators/ associations/ traders are responsible for controlling the number of visitors in supermarkets, grocery stores, restaurants, public and private markets at any one time to ensure social distancing of one metre,” the new notice today said.

“And all licensees, employees, visitors, customers and suppliers are encouraged to: 1. Wear face masks, 2. Prepare and use hand sanitisers,” the notice said.

“In line with that, the notice for the order No. 1/2020 dated March 22, 2020 is cancelled,” the notice today read.

The new notice today also warned that enforcement action would be taken under the Local Government Act 1976 against any of the businesses listed if they fail to comply with the order to ensure social distancing within their premises.

Confusion arose over the matter after health authorities said the masks were not essential for non-frontline health workers.

Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah yesterday clarified that face masks only need to be worn if one was showing symptoms or dealing with patients or working in hospitals, while Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob yesterday said it was not mandatory to wear face masks despite some supermarkets taking the initiative to introduce such rules and also maintained it was important to ensure social distancing.

The Malaysian public has reportedly been finding it hard to purchase face masks at outlets such as pharmacies and some have resorted to searching online for such items, while the police today also shared tips to avoid getting scammed when buying face masks online.

On March 22, Malay Mail observed that a supermarket in Lembah Pantai, Kuala Lumpur had introduced new rules including disallowing those without face masks from entering, limiting the maximum number of customers inside to only 15 and keeping customers one metre apart from each other both inside and outside the supermarket. This supermarket had taken the initiative to do so even before DBKL’s March 22 notice.

The strict rules on social distancing by DBKL comes amid the Health Ministry’s publicly available data as of March 21 noon, which showed Kuala Lumpur as having two of the six hotspots nationwide with the highest number of Covid-19 cases or areas designated with the colour red to indicate severity.

The six areas with the highest number of Covid-19 cases as of March 21 noon are Petaling Jaya (96) in Selangor, Lembah Pantai (90), Hulu Langat (75) in Selangor, Johor Baru (52) in Johor, Seremban (42) in Negri Sembilan, and Titiwangsa (41).

Out of the total cumulative tally of 1,518 Covid-19 cases in Malaysia as of March 23 noon, the highest number was recorded in Selangor at 354 cases, followed by Kuala Lumpur (242), Sabah (169) and Johor (158).

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