As Malaysia moves to CMCO, Health D-G says masks still not mandatory but encouraged

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the wearing of face masks is not mandatory but very much encouraged in public areas. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the wearing of face masks is not mandatory but very much encouraged in public areas. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 — The wearing of face masks is not mandatory but very much encouraged in public areas, Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said today.

Dr Noor Hisham instead stressed the need to maintain a safe distance of at least one metre apart from each other, as well as ensuring clean hands.

“Firstly, wearing face masks is encouraged, so it’s not mandatory but it is very, very much encouraged, especially if we are in public places or areas with crowds. So we encourage to wear face masks, but now it’s not compulsory.

“But other requirements, such as safe distancing have to be practised, at least one metre. If we can practise social distancing of one metre, we can avoid infections or the spreading of Covid-19.

“So we hope that Malaysians will comply with the Health Ministry’s SOP, which is social distancing or safe distancing of one metre and also practise high levels of personal hygiene, always wash your hands; wearing face masks is very encouraged,” he said in his daily briefing.

In the same press conference, Dr Noor Hisham had highlighted the new culture and new awareness that Malaysians must now practise as a “new normal” in order to protect themselves, their families and also society as a whole in the long battle against the invisible enemy Covid-19.

“Each individual has to have self-regulation to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“The society has to take up their social responsibility and play their own part in practising this new normal at all levels of society. This is so that it will be our practise continuously,” he said.

Dr Noor Hisham pointed out that Malaysia had already managed to flatten the curve by slowing down the spread of Covid-19 through several rounds of movement control order (MCO) where everyone were encouraged to stay at home, noting the conditional MCO or CMCO that started today now requires Malaysians to exercise social discipline and fulfill their social responsibility of following standard operating procedures (SOP), including in reopening businesses and industries.

“So it’s a bit early for us to judge, but looking into the practice of other countries, for example, Taiwan, South Korea, they don’t have MCO in place, but what they have is social discipline and compliance with SOP.

“We would like to urge Malaysians to practise SOP, put on face masks when in public and make sure you continue to wash hands from time to time using water and soap or even sanitisers,” he said, noting that failure by businesses to comply with SOPs would risk the infectious rate of Covid-19 in Malaysia going up while compliance would allow the chain of transmission to be broken.

Low asymptomatic numbers

Dr Noor Hisham noted that the number of individuals found to have Covid-19 despite being asymptomatic or not displaying any symptoms were low in the screenings conducted so far.

“If we look at screenings or tests on existing cases, for example cases that came to hospitals for surgery — urgent or semi-urgent surgeries, and we have screened 5,164 asymptomatic patients that have no Covid-19 symptoms, no history of travel and no contact with those who are positive cases. But in our screening or tests, there are only five cases, that is around 0.1 per cent.

“And we also see the screening of 5,433 cases in Selangor, the positive cases detected are 10 cases — 8 are asymptomatic and two are symptomatic. If we see eight cases from 5,433, that is around 0.1 per cent, so if we see asymptomatic cases, there are such cases, but the numbers are still small,” he said.

As for whether asymptomatic cases are infectious or not, Dr Noor Hisham said the viral load or the amount of virus in their bodies may be low and not infectious.

He added that the viral load in patients is high a day or two before they develop symptoms and they would be able to infect others then, urging those who display symptoms to visit clinics or hospitals to enable screenings or tests to determine if they have Covid-19.

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