Make face masks affordable for the poor, MP tells govt

Klang MP Charles Santiago says many from the lower income group cannot afford to comply with the government’s directive for the mandatory use of face masks in public.

KUALA LUMPUR: Klang MP Charles Santiago has urged Putrajaya to help the poor gain access to face masks by lowering the ceiling price or subsidising the production of reusable masks, in the wake of the ruling for the mandatory use of face masks in public which came into force on Aug 1.

He said checks in his constituency over the weekend found that some families were not wearing masks as it was too expensive for them.

He said a family of six would spend RM216 a month on masks for everyday use.

“This constitutes about 20% of the country’s minimum wage of RM1,200. The other possible scenario is that the B40, lower M40, migrant workers and refugees might end up reusing masks to cut costs, thereby putting themselves at risk.

“The government can use this opportunity to help build a cottage industry to produce reusable face masks. They should push for a cottage industry linked to NGOs, small businesses, entrepreneurs, home producers and so on.

“This way, people will start producing and it will be cheaper for the consumption of Malaysians,” he said, adding that kick-starting the industry would also create jobs for people.

Charles Santiago

Santiago said Putrajaya could make use of existing agencies such as Majlis Amanah Rakyat to offer design and tailoring classes, while funds should be pumped into research and development to ensure that the masks comply with international standards.

He said reusable face masks were more environmentally friendly, adding that Malaysia disposes of roughly 10 million face masks a day.

He said Hong Kong and Thailand have ventured into this cottage industry, with Vietnam even producing face masks from coffee grounds.

“Why not Malaysia? We have batik here. We can use the production of reusable face masks to promote our batik,” he said at a press conference today.