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Asia Minute: Rules on Face Coverings Expanding Across Region

AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

Public health professionals around the world continue to call for people to wear masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. But whether that appeal turns into a mandatory rule depends on government leadership in different communities, states, and countries. And that includes parts of the Asia Pacific.

Malaysia may soon become the latest country to make it mandatory to wear face coverings in public places. The country still has had fewer than 9,000 COVID-19 cases, but the daily number of new cases has been moving higher in recent days.

The government started a partial re-opening in mid-June, but in a nationally televised address Monday, the Prime Minister urged residents “not to be careless and negligent.” He said further information would be coming later this week — potentially including new guidance on face masks. 

Hong Kong has already stepped up its mask rules following a recent spike in new cases. They were already mandatory on public transit – now face masks need to be worn in all public places.

On Sunday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam made that announcement, along with shifting all nonessential civil servants to work from home once again.

And in and around the city of Melbourne, Australia face masks or coverings will be required for about 5-million residents starting on Thursday. Those going without will risk a fine of 200 Australian dollars — about 140 dollars U.S.

The premier of Victoria state told reporters, “most of us wouldn’t leave home without our keys, we wouldn’t leave our home without our mobile phone. You won’t be able to leave home without your mask.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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