Don’t mandate WHO 3-ply face masks for public, urges ex-minister

The government has made the use of face masks compulsory from Aug 1.

PETALING JAYA: Former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye has urged the government not to mandate the World Health Organization’s standards on face masks.

“If the government mandates the standard mask recommended by WHO, a lot of ordinary people will have problems following WHO as they may not wear a three-ply cloth mask.

“The fact is that any form of face mask is helpful, even a tudung covering the mouth area, because wearing a mask is not about protecting the wearer but it is about stopping the spread to others,” he told FMT.

The government has made the use of face masks compulsory from Aug 1. Those found flouting the rule will be fined RM1,000.

WHO has advised the use of the three-ply mask.

Yesterday, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the public can use homemade face masks as long as they follow the specifications set by WHO.

He said the health ministry will distribute these specifications to the public.

Ismail said the government had previously not made the wearing of face masks mandatory as it would burden the lower-income group as most face masks were of the disposable type.

But Lee said it would be difficult to monitor the type of face mask worn by the public if adherence to WHO standards is mandated.

Instead, he said Putrajaya should commission the mass production of reusable cloth masks and distribute them free to all Malaysians.

“The government should hire textile companies to make cloth masks. It may cost them about RM100 million and everyone would finally own a free reusable face mask.

“And while waiting for these free cloth masks, people should be allowed to wear any mask as even a headgear or a tudung can prevent the spread of virus.”

On a related matter, Lee also urged Putrajaya to review their decision on mandatory quarantine for passengers entering the country.

He said quarantine should be based on the country people are coming from.

He said visitors from low-risk countries, such as Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Singapore, may not need to undergo a mandatory quarantine.

“The health ministry needs to calculate the risk. If they are coming from countries with a lower incidence of Covid-19 than Malaysia, then it may not make sense to quarantine them (after testing negative at entry points),” he said.

He has suggested for the health ministry to introduce a yardstick for people and countries that should undergo mandatory quarantine.

“If they are from countries that are not reliable, we should put them under mandatory quarantine as certain countries do not carry out enough tests and we cannot trust them,” he added.