Izah Azahari & Rokiah Mahmud
With the high vaccination rate and natural immunity in the Sultanate, it is now time to lift the mandate of mask wearing as it is each individual’s responsibility to monitor their own health in keeping COVID-19 infections at bay.
This was said by Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar during a press conference yesterday at the Al-’Afiah Hall, Ministry of Health (MoH), following the announcement that mask wearing will be optional starting on September 15.
Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah said the mandatory use of face masks will no longer be in effect as the Sultanate gradually moves towards the new normal.
Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew explained that not wearing a face mask no longer poses a danger as it is found to no longer be a source of infection.
Face masks will be optional, except in certain situations outlined in the announcement.
Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof said mask wearing will be optional for the public, both outdoors and indoors.
However, those who show symptoms are still required to wear masks in public.
Meanwhile, face masks are still compulsory at government and private health facilities, including hospitals, clinics, ambulance, swab and injection centres, and if required, by event hosts.
Additionally, operators involved in preparing food at restaurants, eateries, cafes and stalls are still required to wear face masks.
The minister also shared that physical distancing between congregants will continue for mass and Friday prayers, while the use of personal prayer mats is encouraged but not compulsory.
“If we were to compare with other countries, many have no longer made wearing a face mask mandatory,” Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew said.
“This has already been assessed by the MoH and it is a suitable step to take to no longer make the wearing of face masks mandatory.“
He reminded that the change is not necessarily permanent.
The COVID-19 Steering Committee will continue to monitor and review the situation and announce any changes if the number of cases increases.
Adding on, Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said that although other countries no longer make masking mandatory, many in those countries continue to wear face masks.
“This is each individual’s own responsibility. If they feel the need to wear it, then they can do so,” said the minister.
He detailed situations where wearing a mask is needed, such as wedding events where organisers require guests to wear face masks and screen for COVID-19.
With regards to wearing face masks onboard a flight, Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew said it will be according to the airlines.
Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham added that it is not mandatory from the government’s point of view.
However, each airline will have its own set of rules that passengers need to follow.