KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 3 — Klang MP Charles Santiago has called on the government to subsidise the production of reusable face masks to make these more affordable for lower income Malaysians.
Charles suggested that funds could be channelled through a Small Business Entrepreneurship programme that can be expanded to include non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community-based organisations that are already producing cloth masks.
“The government could also work with Technology Vocational Educational Training (TVET) Mara and agencies offering design and tailoring classes to start producing for the market.
“The government can also pump in money towards research and development to ensure these cloth masks pass the required bacterial filtration efficiency and other filtration efficiency tests,” he told reporters during a press conference at the Parliament building today.
Since August 1, all Malaysians have been required to wear face masks on public transport and crowded places where social distancing was not possible.
The ruling prompted complaints about the price of single-use masks as well as the environmental impact from their disposal.
“Our neighbour Vietnam is already on the ball by pioneering reusable face masks made from Vietnamese coffee,” Charles said today.
“The biodegradable filter is developed by nanotechnology and coffee, and needs to be replaced only after 30 days.
“In Hong Kong, the reusable Cu Mask is financed by the city-state’s Innovation and Technology Fund.
“While South Korean researchers from the government-funded university, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology has developed face masks that are equipped with nanofibre filter,” he said.
Charles also pointed out that while there are state-driven Batik-themed cloth face masks production, the reusable masks are not affordable.
A quick search on online shopping platforms that sell the cloth masks showed that a piece is priced at RM15.
He also cited the current spending of a family at average for disposable face masks, where it amounts to RM216 per month for a family of four.
“This constitutes about 20 per cent of the country’s minimum wage of RM1,200.
“Due to this reason alone, those who belong to the B40 or even the lower middle 40 (M40) group may not afford to wear face masks to abide by mandatory rules,” he said.