Effective May 1 this year, it is no longer compulsory for Malaysians to wear face masks when outdoors. The wearing of face masks is still mandatory in enclosed places or where crowds are expected.
Nevertheless, many Malaysians continue to wear masks outdoors voluntarily. With the removal of mask mandates, do you keep wearing masks in public?
The mask mandates were public health measures designed to minimise or control the spread of Covid-19 in the community during the early phases of the pandemic.
Wearing of masks has been shown to protect against Covid-19 with varying efficiency depending on the quality of the masks worn.
N95 respirators reduces the odds of testing positive for Covid-19 by as much as 83% compared to surgical masks (66%) and cloth masks (56%)
However, with the removal of mask mandates, the decision to wear a mask, or not, has become a personal choice.
How will you decide if you will continue to wear a mask and when should you wear a mask? There are several factors to consider.
First, are there any vulnerable persons in your immediate circle?
If you or someone you live with have compromised immunity, or is unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, or is an elderly person with comorbidities such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, or chronic lung diseases, it may be a good idea to continue wearing a mask and maintain physical distancing, especially in indoor or crowded areas.
This practice can help reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to the people around you who are vulnerable.
Second, if you are constantly present in crowded places, such as working in a busy mall, or in tight enclosed spaces with a lot of close physical contact with strangers as when commuting using public transportation, you may want to wear a mask.
Even with the removal of mask mandates, some premises may opt to continue with the “mask required” entry rule, so you must wear a mask when entering these places.
However, if mask-wearing is optional, you may want to consider the space, the crowds, and the air flow, and decide if you should wear a mask. For example, if the premise is small and the crowd is big and air flow is suboptimal, you might want to wear a mask.
In general, wearing of masks outdoors where there is lots of space, minimal crowds, and ample air circulation, offers little added protection against Covid-19.
However, in certain outdoor events such as large concerts or sport events, where close proximity to a large number of people is expected, the wearing of a mask may be a good practice.
What type of masks should you wear?
While N95 masks offer the best protection, they require a good fit and are less comfortable to wear over prolonged periods.
Alternatively, KN95 or KF94 masks offer good protection with the added benefit of comfort.
Another good option is a high quality, good-fitting surgical mask made of non-woven fabric. Make sure the mask has good filtration efficiency such as “VPE/BFE/PFE 99%” and fits snugly around your nose and face.
A word of caution, make sure you purchase your masks from reputable makers and that they are not counterfeits.
Ultimately, the choice to continue to wear a mask or not is your personal decision, taking into consideration your own safety and the safety of those around you.
* Source: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/mm7106e1.htm