Masks still not compulsory, says minister

Izah Azahari

Three situations are needed to be looked into prior to implementing the mandatory use of face masks in the country, spanning from the user, the state of the society and the density of the population, and the presence of community spread.

This was said by Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar in response to a question on his perspective following a number of countries implementing the mandatory use of face masks for its citizens, at a press conference at the Al-‘Afiah Hall of the Ministry of Health yesterday.

As was explained at previous press conferences, the minister highlighted that the use of face masks is to prevent infection from spreading to the public, which means that those who are sick but still need to move about should wear a mask.

However, from what has been seen in the past few weeks with about 50 per cent of cases in Brunei are almost asymptomatic – showing no signs of infection but tested positive for COVID-19, Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham explained that the ministry had discussed with a number of doctors on whether the policy on face masks should be changed.

With a number of factors that need to be taken into account, the minister noted that so far there has not been any presence of community spread, making it still not compulsory for a person to wear a face mask.

Members of the public wear masks outside a shopping centre. PHOTO: RAHWANI ZAHARI

But if some people feel that they are more secure going outside while wearing one, it is up to them. He reminded the public that the face mask does not protect an individual who is sick, but the people around them.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham explained the scenario in other counties which may have a high density of people and public transport where a lot of people are cramped in a small space.

“You don’t know who is a carrier or not, especially in countries that do not carry out these tests if a person is not showing symptoms. In that scenario, of course you must wear a mask because you don’t know who is positive and who isn’t,” explained the minister.

Further emphasising his point, the minister said the situation in Brunei is different as positive cases are known, and while there are many people who say that individuals should wear a face mask, there is still a need to look at the context of the country as well, along with population density and how the pandemic is being controlled.

As Brunei has been carrying out many swab tests compared to other countries, Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said a person can wear a mask if he or she wants to, but it is still not compulsory, especially with surgical masks currently not easily available.