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Masks no longer compulsory in most indoor areas in Malaysia, effective 7 Sep 2022

Masks no longer compulsory in most indoor areas in Malaysia, effective 7 Sep 2022

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However, premise owners can determine whether visitors are required to wear a face mask.

Starting 7 September 2022 (Wednesday), masks in most indoor areas in Malaysia will no longer be compulsory.

Since 1 May 2022, the use of face masks was only mandatory indoors and on public transport, including e-Hailing services. Upon assessment of the current COVID-19 situation, the Ministry of Health (Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia, or KKM) has determined that the use of face masks indoors will now be optional.

However, premise owners can determine whether visitors are required to wear a face mask, and the public is highly encouraged to continue doing so, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a statement announcing updates.

It should be noted that the use of a face mask is still mandatory for the following situations:

  1. An individual is positive for COVID-19 and is required to go to a COVID-19 Assessment Centre (CAC) to undergo a health assessment;
  2. On public transport services such as buses, trains, taxis including e-hailing services, airplanes and buses, employee vans and school vans, and
  3. While in health facilities such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, hemodialysis centres, and the likes.

The Ministry of Health also strongly encourages the use of face masks in the following situations:

  1. In crowded areas such as night markets, stadiums, shopping malls, and places of worship;
  2. When individuals have symptoms such as fever, cough, and cold;
  3. An individual who is at high risk, such as the elderly, people with chronic diseases, individuals with low immunity, and pregnant women, and
  4. While participating in activities with high-risk individuals such as the elderly and children.

The requirements for wearing face masks outdoors and in open areas will remain the same as previously announced - i.e., not mandatory.

However, the Ministry of Health encourages the use of face masks outdoors for the following situations:

  1. In crowded areas;
  2. When individuals have symptoms such as fever, cough, and cold;
  3. An individual who is at high risk, and
  4. Doing activities with high-risk individuals such as the elderly and children.

Latest recommendations by the Technical Working Group of the KKM

The Ministry of Health's Technical Working Group (TWG) has also discussed the latest proposals or recommendations in regard to the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, which involves the administration of a primary dose, a booster dose and a second booster dose.

The following are the latest recommendations that have been decided by the TWG on 3 September 2022:

Recommendation #1: Second booster dose of mRNA vaccine for pregnant or breastfeeding women

Pregnant women are categorised as vulnerable individuals due to the high risk of severe illness stemming from a COVID-19 infection. Furthermore, the infection of COVID-19 can also increase the risk of getting complications, which in turn can affect the pregnancy and the development of the baby.

According to the statement, available data shows that the mRNA vaccine effectively reduces the risk of severe COVID-19 infection during pregnancy. Antibodies produced after pregnant women have taken vaccine were also detected in the baby and could help protect the baby from COVID-19 infection.

It was also affirmed in the statement that existing vaccine safety data do not show any increased risk of miscarriage, pregnancy complications, and birth defects, nor any concerns over safety aspects for pregnant women receiving the mRNA vaccine.

Based on the available data, pregnant and breastfeeding women can receive the primary dose vaccine or the booster dose of COVID-19. Women at risk of severe illness due to COVID-19 can also receive a second booster dose at any time during pregnancy, in line with recommendations by the World Health Organization (WHO)

Recommendation #2: Booster dose for children aged five to under 12 years

Children aged 5 to under 12 years with comorbidities or who are immunocompromised (weak immune system) are children at risk of severe COVID-19 infection. KKM noted that the administration of the first booster dose will increase the effectiveness of the vaccine against severe disease caused by the Omicron variant and can be given within six to nine months after receiving the last vaccine dose.

Recommendation #3: Vaccination  for children aged six months to five years

The COVID-19 vaccine can be offered to children aged six months to five years, with comorbidities or immunocompromise. KKM has started the process of procuring the COVID-19 vaccine with a special formulation for this group of children.

Recommendation #4: Heterologous vaccination for a second booster dose

Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for administration of a second booster dose to the following population groups:

  1. Individuals aged 50 years and above
  2. Children aged 12 years and above are moderately or severely immunocompromised
  3. Individuals aged 18 and over with comorbidities and at risk of severe disease
  4. Pregnant women or nursing mothers
  5. Health workers

Per the TWG's current recommendations, heterologous vaccines with mRNA vaccines or viral vector vaccines for a second booster dose can be given to individuals at high risk of severe disease due to COVID-19. Heterologous vaccination for the second booster dose can be given as follows, on the advice of medical personnel:

  1. An inactivated type vaccine for the initial dose can be considered to use a vector or mRNA vaccine for subsequent doses;
  2. A vector-type vaccine for the initial dose can also be considered using an mRNA vaccine for subsequent doses, and
  3. An mRNA vaccine for the initial dose may be considered for use of a vector vaccine for subsequent doses.

Lead image / Shutterstock 

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