Malaysian voters, especially senior citizens, should wear their face masks while casting their ballots on Saturday, say health authorities.
Kedah health director Dr Othman Warijo said the practice should be observed as the Covid-19 pandemic is not over yet.
“We want people to go out and exercise their voting rights responsibly, but they must make early preparations. For example, voters can check the Election Commission (EC) website to find out their polling centers and the recommended times they should go and cast their votes,” he said.
He said hand sanitizers would be provided to voters. At the same time, votes should avoid crowded places such as pondok panas (party gathering stations) to prevent infections.
This comes as Malaysia recorded 2,234 new Covid-19 infections on Sunday, bringing the total number of infections to 4,948,817 since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Active cases currently stood at 29,605, down 5.8 percent compared to 14 days ago.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said Covid-19-positive voters must wear facemasks at polling centers.
“This is to ensure that the voting process is conducted smoothly, particularly in terms of reducing the spread of Covid-19,” he said.
Tan Sri Hisham said voters who test positive for Covid-19 must maintain physical distancing at the voting centers. They are only allowed to travel with personal vehicles between their homes and the polling centers.
Allaying fears, Dr Othman said health personnel would be on standby to handle Covid-19 positive voters at polling centers.
“Those who are infected with Covid must inform the health personnel as there will be EC and ministry staff on duty to guide them. They won’t be allowed to mix with other voters, and to ensure minimal exposure to others, the voting process for these Covid-19 positive voters will be expedited,” he added.
Universiti Sains Malaysia virologist Dr Kumitaa Theva Das said now is the best time for those who have not had their second booster shot to do so.
“Many clinics and centers are offering walk-in services. So, getting that extra immune boost will keep you protected from the disease.“
She said it is not just the infections people should be worried about, as reinfections pose twice the danger.
“Being infected more than once leave long-lasting health effects on the heart and lungs. There is also a risk of neurological disorders,” she said.
Dr Kumitaa urged voters to mask up at all times, using either the KF94, KN95 or N95 masks as these provided the best protection.
She also said cloth and regular surgical masks provided less protection against newer Covid-19 strains.
“If you don’t have any other option, use double masks as the new strains are highly transmissible,” she added.