‘Odd’ not to force students to wear face masks, says expert

The education minister says it has not been decided if wearing face masks should be made compulsory in schools.

PETALING JAYA: An expert has called out the “seemingly odd” decision by the government not to make it mandatory for students to wear face masks in school.

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said the government had made it compulsory for people to wear face masks in crowded places to break the chain of transmission, and this should apply for schools as well.

“It is seemingly odd that the decision on whether or not to require students to wear face masks should be delayed,” he told FMT.

“Infectious diseases do not operate differently in schools, and neither are they exempted from public health measures.”

Azrul Mohd Khalib

Stressing that classrooms are crowded and enclosed spaces where there is a lot of interaction, Azrul said it would be “unrealistic” to expect physical distancing to be consistently enforced.

On Tuesday, Education Minister Radzi Jidin said his ministry had yet to decide whether it should be compulsory for students to wear face masks in school.

Replying to a question raised by Teo Nie Ching (PH-Kulai) in the Dewan Rakyat, Radzi said that under the guidelines to reopening schools, the wearing of face masks in schools is only “encouraged”.

Teo asked if the ministry would provide free face masks for students, especially those from low income (B40) families.

Radzi said his ministry is discussing the issue with several parties.

While a source in the ministry did not want to disclose the status of these discussions, he told FMT any decision would be based on advice from the health ministry.

Schools were closed for nearly four months because of the movement control order implemented on March 18, and classes resumed in stages from June 24 to July 22.

In a statement to FMT, Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr N Ganabaskaran noted that the wearing of face masks is already mandatory on public transport systems which some students use.

“We should be consistent and make it mandatory in all schools. Any crowded place will increase the risk of infection,” he warned.

“The wearing of face masks will also help protect school children who may have pre-existing health issues that may put them at higher risk of more severe symptoms or complications if infected with Covid-19.

“We should take all necessary precautions to reduce these risks.”