The health system is better prepared to manage COVID-19. The public can easily screen themselves and there is a high awareness of seeking care when symptomatic. Malaysians are also facing the effect of inflation in their everyday lives.
It is time to remove the general indoor mask mandate. The benefits of the prolonged public masking policy have greatly reduced with time, possibly due to SOP fatigue, the decreasing COVID-19 severity and our successful national vaccination program.
This has decreased the efficiency of the mask mandate as the societal, environmental and economic costs continue to accumulate.
Each one of us has had to bear the cost of this policy’s inefficiency.
There is a typical “mask tax” for every family member as we leave our homes, and this increases our cost of living. We should not discount this cost as the world faces unprecedented inflation.
The efficiency of mask mandate has decreased, as the societal, environmental and economic costs accumulate.
Our planet’s health is also affected due to the excess waste resulting from the non-sustainable use of face masks.
In addition, face masks disrupt face-to-face communication. It is more difficult to speak and listen to one another. There have also been many anecdotal reports of learning disabilities among young children secondary to face mask use.
Removing the mask mandate is unlikely to lead to increased hospital care utilization. However, effective mask use should continue for infection prevention purposes among specific populations and in high-risk environments such as infectious disease wards.
We should leave the decision of using a face mask to the public. Those who are more risk averse can continue using their face masks. However, there is a lack of compelling evidence to enforce the use of masking for all of us.
It is appropriate at this time for the government to consider removing the indoor face mask mandate and stop the enforcement of this SOP.
(Professor Dr. Sanjay Rampal and Dr. Tharani Loganathan, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya.)