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Malaysia may make masks a must in public after coronavirus cases rise

This article is more than 12 months old

PM Muhyiddin says measure may be needed as country sees second straight daily double-digit rise in cases

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is considering making face masks compulsory in public following the emergence of 13 new coronavirus clusters since the government relaxed broad curbs on movement and businesses last month, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said yesterday.

Malaysian health authorities recorded 21 new cases yesterday, lifting the total since the outbreak began to 8,800 cases and 123 deaths.

Yesterday saw the second straight daily double-digit rise in infections, after Malaysia managed to broadly hold daily growth to single digits since the lockdown was eased on June 10.

The number of positive cases climbed by 15 on Sunday, and by 18 two days prior.

Mr Muhyiddin said the string of double-digit daily increases, coupled with the new clusters detected in several states, has led the government to think that it may be necessary to make wearing face masks in public compulsory.

"The details will be announced once the relevant regulations are finalised by the government," Mr Muhyiddin said in an address broadcast on national television.

He warned that if cases spiked, stricter curbs would be reintroduced and the country stood to lose RM2 billion (S$650 million) daily and millions of Malaysians would lose their source of income.

"We had just witnessed the positive impact from the government's strict measures and the people's high discipline throughout the enforcement of the (curbs).

"Our national economy has also started to pick up, and we are getting to enjoy our lives by practising the new normal.

"However, let us not be careless and negligent. I want to again remind all of you that the Covid-19 pandemic is not yet over," he said.

Malaysia was among the first countries in the region to impose strict curbs on public activity, closing borders, barring mass movement, and ordering all but key sectors to shut operations in March as it fought to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Indonesia reported its second highest daily increase in coronavirus-related deaths with 96 fatalities, a day after registering a record daily jump of 127 deaths.

It also reported 1,693 infections, taking the total to 88,214 with a total of 4,239 deaths.

There are also fears that the rapid antibody tests used for various activities, including for travelling, are not up to the mark. Checks carried out by the Association of Indonesia's Clinical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine specialists showed that many of them had sensitivity and specificity lower than 50 per cent, the association's chairman, Professor Aryati, said.

"With low sensitivity, chances of false negatives are high... while with low specificity, chances for false positives are high," said Prof Aryati, who is from Surabaya's Airlangga University.

The Philippinesyesterday confirmed four deaths and 1,521 new cases, its fifth straight day of reporting over a thousand infections.

Total deaths have increased to 1,835 while confirmed cases have reached 69,898. - REUTERS, THE STAR, JAKARTA POST

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