Sg Buloh Hospital Expert Says Malaysians Do Not Need To Wear Face Masks For Now

The doctor also advised against wearing N95 masks.

Cover image via Bernama via Harian Metro & The Straits Times

Malaysians do not need to wear face masks yet, according to an infectious diseases consultant at the Sungai Buloh Hospital (HSB)

According to the doctor, as of now, there has been no human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Malaysia.

Dr Benedict Sim made the statement at the Ministry of Health's press briefing about the Wuhan coronavirus today, 30 January, reported The Star.

"Masks are helpful when there are human-to-human transmissions, but there is none in Malaysia currently," said Dr Sim.

"That advice may change over time if the outbreak changes."

He added that Malaysians only need to put on face masks if they are visiting China, where the epicentre of the outbreak is.

Sungai Buloh Hospital senior consultant physician (infectious disease) Dr Benedict Sim.

Image via Bernama via Harian Metro

The doctor also advised against wearing N95 masks, among others

Dr Sim, who works in the hospital that received the first three 2019-nCoV infected patients in Malaysia, said one-ply masks are too thin and do not protect against germs, reported New Straits Times.

As for N95 masks, he said they are normally used against hazardous substances or airborne viruses, while the Wuhan coronavirus is transmitted via respiratory droplets, such as coughs or sneezes.

One-ply face mask (left); N95 mask (right).

Image via BMS Safety | Amazon

"There are also technical challenges when using N95 masks as it needs to fit our facial contours and must be properly worn. There is also a specific way to remove this mask without contaminating the hands," explained Dr Sim.

"So at this stage, we will not recommend the N95 mask for the general public," he said, adding that three-ply surgical masks will suffice.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) is having discussions with face mask suppliers to increase their supply in Malaysia

KPDNHEP deputy minister Chong Chieng Jen said although there are three face mask manufacturers in the country, they mostly export their products to hospitals overseas, reported Free Malaysia Today.

"Most of the face masks sold in the local market are imported," said Chong.

"Therefore, KPDNHEP enforcement director Iskandar Halim Sulaiman is having a meeting with the face masks suppliers on how to increase the supply for the local market."

Chong said Malaysians went on a panic-buy of face masks following the outbreak and that many retailers ran out of stock

Image via The Borneo Post

He warned retailers against raising the price of face masks as they are protected under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011.

Members of the public are encouraged to report to the ministry if the face masks listed below are above these prices:

- One-ply masks: RM5 per box (wholesale) or RM7 per box (retail).
- Two-ply masks: RM8 per box (wholesale), RM10 per box (retail), or 20 sen per piece.
- Three-ply surgical masks: RM25 per box or 80 sen per piece.
- Three-ply hijab-friendly masks: RM30 per box or 80 sen per piece.
- N95 face masks: RM100 per box or RM6 per piece.

If you stumbled upon businesses selling masks above the controlled prices, you can make a report to KPDNHEP here.

Not sure how to wear a mask? This World Health Organisation (WHO) expert will guide you:

Earlier today, 14 Chinese tourists were turned away at KLIA:

Meanwhile, a Malaysian data scientist recently launched a website that updates citizens around the world about latest news about the outbreak:

Read more about the Wuhan coronavirus on SAYS:

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