The Star: Students encouraged to don their masks

KUCHING: It will not be compulsory for students to wear face masks when they return to school next week but they are encouraged to do so, reiterates Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa.

She said this was in view of the current downward trend of Covid-19 cases in the country.

“Face masks will not be mandatory but we encourage students to wear them, especially in crowded areas,” she told a press conference after attending a Health White Paper townhall session at the Sarawak General Hospital here yesterday.

Dr Zaliha said she would meet Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek soon to discuss the guidelines and standard operating procedure for students, which will be issued before school reopens next week.

“Together we want to ensure students are safe when they return to school,” she said.

Dr Zaliha had earlier proposed making face masks mandatory in schools again to prevent a Covid-19 surge from the new XBB.1.16 subvariant, also known as Arcturus.

However, she said the number of cases had declined by 28% from 2,800 in epidemiological week 16 to 2,014 cases in epidemiological week 17.

“There’s no need to panic, based on the number of cases at the moment.

“The cases, which involve the new subvariant, are mostly found to be in Categories 1 and 2.

“So we still maintain the current SOP of encouraging the public, including schoolchildren, to mask up in crowded places,” Dr Zaliha said.

“If it becomes necessary for a new SOP, we will come up with it.”

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