April 27, 2023
PETALING JAYA – The mask mandate may make a return to schools, as the Health Ministry is planning to propose the use of face masks once again.
A report quoted Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa as saying that the move was to avoid the resurgence of Covid-19 due to the XBB1.16 or Arcturus variant.
Dr Zaliha said she would hold a meeting with Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek on the matter soon.
“I will meet her (Fadhlina) this week to discuss guidelines and why we need to control the spread of Covid-19 in schools, especially with the new highly transmissible Arcturus variant,” she said.
The guidelines and the standard operating procedure will be released before school reopens on May 2.
“This is important because we are worried that students will get infected after moving around due to the Hari Raya holidays, which could cause a Covid-19 outbreak in schools,” she told Berita Harian.
Dr Zaliha told The Star the use of face masks is a recommendation and not a mandate.
Asked whether the ministry is considering recommending the use of face masks beyond just schools and to the public, she said, “Yes, soon.”
“We have been consistent in encouraging people to wear masks,” she added.
National Union of the Teaching Profession secretary-general Fouzi Singon said while the group agrees with the proposal to make face masks compulsory again, the existing rules are sufficient and need to be reaffirmed.
He said most schools have not made it mandatory.
“So it is appropriate for schools and parents to take appropriate measures to ensure that parents themselves are not worried about sending their children to school,” he said.
Since September last year, the use of face masks on school premises was no longer mandatory. However, it was encouraged.
On Monday, the ministry announced that 12 cases of the Arcturus sub-variant had been detected in the country.
Six cases were detected in Sarawak, four in Selangor, and two in Kuala Lumpur.