Health minister to announce next Wednesday whether face masks indoors can come off

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 4 — Will Malaysians be able to remove their face masks — that last physical shield against Covid-19 — in closed spaced before Malaysia Day? Health Minister Khairy said he will announce a decision by next Wednesday.

“I am still collecting feedback from various groups. By next Wednesday I will make an announcement,” he told reporters at the Seri Alam public low-cost housing here after an organ donation campaign today.

He also said he can only announce Malaysia’s completion to Covid-19 endemicity once three key considerations have been fulfilled.

He said the three considerations are based on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) assessment of the coronavirus risk to the international community, as well as local health gauges that will help the government decide how long it should keep the Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 — also known as Act 342 — in force.

“There are three considerations. Firstly, the WHO for now still considers Covid-19 as a public health emergency of international concern,” Khairy said.

He said that as long as that international rating is maintained, “all countries have to be careful of the disease”.

He also said that all the health rules and regulations under Act 342, such as wearing facial masks in public, are still in force until December and that he has yet to decide whether to revoke or extend the expiry.

“I have extended Act 342 for all areas of Malaysia that are declared diseased areas until December.

“So Act 342, if necessary, can be enforced, even though it is no longer in use, but the law still applies,” he said, adding that he could only decide Malaysia’s endemicity after deciding how long to keep that particular law.

“Third will be health indicators. We need to ask epidemiology experts what the definition of endemic in the context of Covid-19 is.

“Endemicity varies between diseases... and for Covid-19, even when numbers are like this, each disease has different infectious levels and we found that the infectious rate for Covid-19 is very high.

“So we have to think carefully and refer to diseases and epidemiology experts for Covid-19 as there are still mutations and variants that are unknown to us,” he said.

Malaysia began its transition to the endemic phase from April 1 this year.