KUCHING: People in high-risk groups should continue to use a face mask despite the government having made it optional for people to wear it in indoor settings.
Public health expert Associate Professor Dr Helmy Hazmi said face mask wearing is not only for preventing the spread of Covid-19 but is also useful to prevent the spread of other airborne infections.
“Thus, those in high-risk groups should continue to use a face mask – not only in indoor settings but in all crowded places,” he told New Sarawak Tribune.
For those commuting by motorcycles, he said, it would be commendable for them to continue to mask up or make it a habit as it helps to protect themselves from air pollutants as well as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, when traveling on the road.
“We need to be aware that apart from respiratory diseases, exposure to air pollutants is associated with cardiovascular disease and premature death in adults,” he explained.
Thus, Dr Helmy of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s (Unimas) Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, opined that the public should know when to wear a face mask and when ‘it is safe’ to remove it after two years of masking up.
“As for those who prefer to remove it, it is alright as the Health Ministry’s announcement and decision was supported by circumstantial evidence based on the data, including the number of new cases, severe cases, and fatalities as well as the capacity of our health facilities,” he said.
“So, it boils down to trusting one another to make good decisions to protect ourselves and our community,” he added.
In addition, over the last few months, there has not been a spike in cases, despite the major celebrations such as Hari Raya, Hari Gawai and other congregational events.
At the same time, he said, the percentage of those who have got at least two doses of Covid-19 vaccines stands at around 85 per cent, which could be the tipping point that helps in controlling severe cases and preventing spikes in cases.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had announced that wearing a face mask indoors will be made optional, while premises owners could also decide if their patrons were required to put on a face mask or make it optional for them.
However, he stressed that wearing of face masks was still mandatory in all healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, clinics and nursing homes, and said it was recommended that those in high-risk groups continue to don the masks.