TODAY marked a significant day as far as Malaysian healthcare history goes – Malaysia enforced compulsory usage of facemasks when in crowded public areas and whilst using public transport.
Here are some observations the author made in a local community in Ipoh.
Those ‘with masks’ ( 60%)
I purposely chose the word “with masks” as having one doesn’t mean that they are using it properly.
The ‘Taking it up-the-chin’ cluster (30% of the 60%)
Whilst many of us wish that we can be fighters like Rocky Balboa, regularly taking a punch or two up the chin, it does not mean that our masks should be covering it all the time. Many people in the community who are wearing masks are so obsessed with covering their chin with it – more than their mouth and nose. Many decide to stand close to their friends and chat – with their masks on their chin. This obviously defeats the purpose of wearing a mask. These people should be fined.
The ‘Terbalik’ cluster (15% of the 60%)
Again, despite numerous reminders, Malaysians are still wearing their masks wrongly. The coloured side should be always outside and the white part should be in direct contact with the face. If it is a white mask, please check with your supplier which are the correct sides. This cluster can be forgiven – with all the fake news whatsapp messages circulating, there are bound to be a few that were misled.
However, education is needed, so if you see someone wearing their masks inside-out, please take two seconds out of your time and do your bit for the public by advising them.
The ‘Savers’ cluster (5% of the 60%)
There are many who are having masks just to save RM1,000 without knowing why they should be wearing them in the first place. They walk in public without a mask, but as soon as someone who looks like an enforcement officer walks past, the mask comes out of their pockets and onto their face. This completely defeats the purpose of having a compulsory face mask law. These people should also be fined double the amount.
The compliant group (10% of the 60%)
These are the only good Samaritans who won’t be classified into a cluster as they have adhered to the law. Good citizens that know that it is important to wear a mask. In fact, observing this group of people, they scan the QR codes upon entry to shops, disinfect their hands and adhere to SOPs. I salute you guys, thank you! But remember, it is no use of wearing a facemask alone! You need to still practise other preventive measures like handwashing, disinfecting materials, physical distancing and adhering to the SOPs at all times.
Those without masks (40%)
This group is the problematic one. Some of them may fall under the ‘Savers’ cluster as they might be having their valuable masks tucked away in their pockets or purses, but the author did not tail them to see if they had one or not. This is seriously worrying, 40% of those observed were mostly from the 18-35 years of age group. I simply cannot imagine why they would not want to wear masks.
Can it be boiled down to the poor understanding of why we should wear it? These people have no idea that they could be asymptomatic carriers and can potentially spread Covid-19 to the community or their own families. Remember, by not wearing a mask, not only will you transmit the virus, you are also putting yourself at risk to contract the virus.
Wake up, Malaysia! The next time you see someone who is part of the above clusters or without masks, please stop and politely remind them that we are fighting this pandemic. Some good Samaritans have also decided to work with charity groups or buy masks themselves and distribute to these groups. Either way, spread the word and make a difference.
Enforcement is also needed. They should be strict with those without masks and those who walk with their masks on their chins or those with masks in their pockets, just as they would with those who do not wear masks. I must also urge the government to provide free masks for the B40 group so that they are not burdened with the cost and will comply with the law as they now have masks.
Disclaimer: It must be reminded that the “clusters” above might not be the same for all regions or places in Malaysia, but similar trends might be observed. – August 1, 2020.
* Dr Arvinder-Singh HS is a medical officer.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.