August 12, 2020 @ 10:59am
KUALA LUMPUR: A consumer group said the proposed RM1 per unit retail price for three-ply face masks is still too high.
Members of the public, however, were of the opinion that a lower price could affect the quality of the essential item.
Malaysian Muslim Consumer Association lead activist Datuk Nadzim Johan said the price should be between 10 sen and 50 sen per piece.
"We have to consider the large families and bottom 40 per cent income group (B40) communities.
"Imagine a family of nine, with a daily household income of about RM150 per day. They can't afford to buy face masks in bulk. They will struggle to buy face masks.
"And you can't reuse the masks. The government should consider the financial situation of this group."
He urged the government to reconsider the ceiling price of RM1 as even at that price, some groups could not afford it.
"There are still people out there who have to rummage through trash to get face masks.
"If the government insists on setting the ceiling price at RM1, then that price should be the one set for government servants or for hospitals. This price should not be for the public."
Sales director Loh Gaik Cheng, 50, said the government's decision to cap the price of face masks was the right move given that it was mandatory to wear them in public. But she believed the ceiling price could be reduced even further so that they would be more affordable for the underprivileged.
She said the ceiling price should be set at 85 sen per piece.
"Since it is mandatory to wear a face mask, we may have to change it frequently. Each person may have to use several face masks a day," she said.
"The price could be one of the main reasons why people refuse to wear face masks. I think people are aware of this. The government just has to make face masks more affordable."
However, insurance executive Tanusha Ganesan, 26, said a lower price could lead to the quality of face masks being compromised.
"I think the price is affordable. If the price is lower than RM1, it might affect the quality."
Besides affordability, the frequency of changing face masks was another concern.
People employed in the gig economy sector, particularly, have to regularly change their face masks.
"Grab drivers and deliverymen, who work outdoors, need to change their face masks more frequently every day, but their income may not be stable enough to afford that," said lecturer Tan Wen See, 26.
However, some people disagreed that the RM1 price would be a hindrance for people to wear face masks.
Yaneetha Meena Louis, a 30-year-old doctoral candidate from Johor Baru, felt that Malaysians were becoming complacent since the number of Covid-19 cases had declined.
"Our citizens were disciplined when cases were spiking in March and April, but with regulations being more relaxed now, Malaysians have returned to their usual 'tidak apa' attitude."
Sales executive Fanitsyara Kam Phon, 26, felt it was the lackadaisical attitude of Malaysians and not the price of face masks that affected compliance.
"I think the price of face masks is not the main reason for non-compliance. It is ignorance and irresponsibility towards public health and safety."