The health ministry today said that it could begin enforcing the law on wearing face masks in public places under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) once more, as cases of Covid-19 begin to rise again some four months after Malaysia began its transition to the endemic phase.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said his ministry had found that the fewer people were now wearing face masks indoors although this was still mandatory under the current SOPs.
He said the health ministry had stopped issuing compound notices after April 17, in line with the government's move towards endemicity on April 1.
"We placed more priority on community empowerment and individual responsibility, not the empowerment of the law," he added.
"If the number of cases continue to spike, the health ministry does not rule out the possibility of re-enforcing Act 342 against those who refuse to wear face masks."
Under Act 342, those found to have committed an offence can be fined a maximum of RM1,000 or imprisoned for not more than six months.
A total of 4,020 new Covid-19 cases were reported yesterday, the most since April 24 when 4,006 infections were logged.
There are now 33,839 active cases, of which 32,617 or 96.4% are undergoing home quarantine.
Speaking at a press conference in Putrajaya, Khairy said many were becoming careless and neglecting the use of face masks which he added were the best form of defence against the spread of the virus.
"I am still appealing for the empowerment of individuals and communities regarding the use of face masks in enclosed areas, except when eating, drinking and taking pictures," he said.
"In all other contexts, we must continue to comply as this is an effective measure against the spread of Covid-19."
He urged the public to remain vigilant and to adopt public health measures to protect themselves and their families from infection and the new wave of the epidemic.
He also advised those planning to return to their home towns for Hari Raya to test themselves for Covid-19, to protect those in the high-risk group, especially the elderly, from the risk of infection.