For Malaysians, old habits die hard even as mandatory masking, MySejahtera check-ins go away

·5-min read
Kamal Muhsin and Nadira Anwar are glad that the mask mandate has been relaxed. — Pictures by Devan Manuel
Kamal Muhsin and Nadira Anwar are glad that the mask mandate has been relaxed. — Pictures by Devan Manuel

KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 — Standard operating procedures requiring face masks outdoors and MySejahtera registrations officially ended yesterday but many Malaysians still kept up both practices out of precaution and lingering concern about Covid-19.

Despite Malaysia’s high vaccination rate and the lowest Covid-19 infection cases, down to a 13-month low with 2,107 cases yesterday, masks continued to be readily seen outdoors when Malay Mail visited popular locations in the city.

Malay Mail visited three locations to gauge public sentiments on the relaxed SOPs: Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), Bangsar, and Bukit Bintang.

“It’s pretty odd. I was in the car just now and I was about to take my mask, telling myself, ‘take your mask, don’t forget’. And he asked me, ‘don’t you remember?’” Nadeera Anwar said when met at Bangsar with her partner, Kamal Muhsin.

“We feel like we just have to put make-up on now,” Kamal joked.

Kamal and Nadeera said they were glad the SOPs have been relaxed but admitted to feeling peer pressure to keep wearing the masks as most around them have still not stopped doing so.

“I think it’s just that anxiety. Am I doing okay? Am I not being compliant, because the majority are still wearing their masks,” Nadeera added, while for Kamal the move to relax the SOP of face masks was overdue.

“I think we are a little bit late as compared to other countries. High time (Malaysia followed suit).”

D. Suhashini, who just recovered from Covid-19 over a month ago, is still hesitant about going maskless outdoors and prefers to be cautious.
D. Suhashini, who just recovered from Covid-19 over a month ago, is still hesitant about going maskless outdoors and prefers to be cautious.

For D. Suhashini, wearing a face mask when heading out has become a way of life, especially after she contracted Covid-19 over a month ago.

While she has since recovered, she said Covid-19 “wasn’t so kind to [her]”.

“So I am a little bit paranoid to be honest, but of course I will try to put it on as much as I can, but in case I am alone I will definitely remove it.

“I realised some people even put their masks on in their cars, but I am not that paranoid, but as long as I am in a public place, I will still put it on,” she said.

Suhashini added that she has mixed feelings about the government’s move to dial back the Covid-19 preventive measures but understood the need to return to normalcy as time passes on.

She also said it was not feasible to keep up the requirements perpetually.

“It doesn’t make much sense, but it is just kita jaga kita. If you feel paranoid about it just keep it on,” she said.

Ng Mun Yee says she is not ready to embrace the new mask mandate and prefers to be cautious as she has a child.
Ng Mun Yee says she is not ready to embrace the new mask mandate and prefers to be cautious as she has a child.

Mother of one, Ng Mun Yee, also shared Suhashini’s sentiments, saying that despite almost every one of her family members having contracted and recovered from Covid-19, vigilance is the way forward.

She explained that keeping up with the precautionary measures was necessary to protect those who remain vulnerable to Covid-19 infection.

“For those who have kids at home, we will definitely wear our masks, especially at crowded places and in public transportations.

“It’s not just about family but the overall environment, whereby if you are safe then we are safe. Covid-19 is still around. I have mixed feelings. Not entirely sure about going maskless where it is permitted,” Ng said when met at KLCC with her family in tow.

On April 27, the government revised its mask mandate and made it optional when outdoors but still mandatory when in public settings that were indoors. Masks also remained a requirement when using public transport including e-hailing services.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said, however, that the ministry encourages face masks to still be worn as they help reduce the spread of Covid-19, especially for high-risk such as the elderly and children under five who still do not have access to vaccines.

Indran Sankar told Malay Mail that he would assess the outdoor situation he is in before deciding to go maskless, May 1, 2022.
Indran Sankar told Malay Mail that he would assess the outdoor situation he is in before deciding to go maskless, May 1, 2022.

Indran Sankar was also hesitant about enjoying the new freedom as he also experienced symptomatic Covid-19 infection.

“The rules are there, but I think the people, the citizens should know that the face mask is to prevent them from getting Covid-19. Even if freedom has been given, I think we should evaluate things on our own.

“I still have a sense of fear,” he said, adding that he was infected during the first wave of Covid-19.

Russian Victor L who has settled down in Malaysia for over two years was a picture of joy on the first day of the relaxed mask mandate, May 1, 2022.
Russian Victor L who has settled down in Malaysia for over two years was a picture of joy on the first day of the relaxed mask mandate, May 1, 2022.

Victor L, a Russian who started residing in Malaysia just before the pandemic hit, was a picture of joy alongside his family.

For Victor, the decision to loosen the mask mandate was a long time coming.

“It’s fantastic! It is high time! It’s truly lovely being able to be out like this. We love it. I am happy. In Russia, they removed the mask mandate sometime back,” he added.

As for the open-air Ramadan bazaar, a check on one of the bazaars here in Pasar Juadah Padang Perbandaran MPAJ in Pandan Indah, Ampang found that patrons were allowed to enter the designated compound without the need to check-in through MySejahtera.

Malay Mail observed most if not all patrons wearing face masks despite the end of the requirement.

Several eateries in the area were also seen to have removed the MySejahtera check-in requirement for patrons as well.

Under the list of relaxed SOPs that came into force yesterday, Malaysians also longer need to scan using the MySejahtera contact tracing application to enter premises.

However, premises owners should still check their visitors’ health status to verify if they are not positive for Covid-19, are high-risk individuals, or have been issued the home surveillance order (HSO) who must be refused entry.

Khairy also urged members of the public to activate the MySJ Trace function to enable contact tracing for Covid-19 infection cases.

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