New start for Malaysia on April 1 after two years in battle with Covid-19

KUALA LUMPUR (March 8): Malaysia will soon enter the "Transition to Endemic" phase, which will see various sectors given more flexibility to enable the people to return to near-normal lives after battling Covid-19 for over two years.

Beginning April 1, the reopening of more economic and social sectors, as well as the country’s borders, will be carried out in a safe manner after taking into account several factors, conducting the necessary risk assessment, seeking advice from the Ministry of Health, and scrutinising the recommendations from the Quartet Ministers.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, when announcing the much-awaited news, said the decision taken was an exit strategy and temporary phase before the country can fully enter the endemic phase, subject to an announcement by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

This important measure will revive Malaysia’s economy, especially the tourism sector that had been severely impacted following the closure of the country’s borders since March 18, 2020, as part of efforts to contain Covid-19 transmissions.

With the reopening of the borders, not only Malaysians can now travel abroad as normal, foreign travellers will also be able to enter the country without having to apply for the MyTravelPass, which will soon be scrapped.

The transition phase was achieved as a result of Malaysia’s successful National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK). As of Monday (March 7), 98.7% of the adult population in the country have been fully vaccinated, while 64% have been given booster doses.

Touted as one of the best globally, the vaccination programme contributed to the low rate of Covid-19 patients in categories three to five, which is about 0.7% of new daily cases and saw the number of patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) remain under control.

However, the government will still be taking precautions by maintaining new norms such as wearing face masks, physical distancing, registration through MySejahtera and the requirement of MYSJTrace for closed spaces.

In addition, taking into account the global threat of the Omicron variant wave, fully vaccinated travellers will still have to undergo Covid-19 PCR testing two days before departure, as well as the RTK-Ag (professional) test within 24 hours upon arrival.

“It is hoped that those who want to take advantage of the opening of the country's borders will abide by the guidelines set for the safety of themselves, those around them and the country as a whole,” the Prime Minister said when announcing the transition at the Parliament building on Tuesday (March 8).

National Recovery Council chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, in a statement on Tuesday, welcomed the announcement, which he described as a positive move, especially for sectors severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, such as tourism and commercial industries.

“Insya-Allah with the reopening of our borders, Malaysia will always be on the right track for the economic recovery, which is projected to grow between 5.5% to 6.5% for 2022,” he said.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the long-awaited decision was welcomed by the aviation industry, as it provides the needed connections and linkages to facilitate commerce, trade and the movement of people.

"This will allow Malaysia to reap the social and economic benefits of aviation given its contribution to jobs and Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” IATA regional vice president for Asia Pacific, Philip Goh, said in a statement today.

Meanwhile, the announcement made just less than a month before the holy month of Ramadan has fulfilled the wishes of Muslims to perform Tarawih prayers without physical distancing in mosques and surau, as well as Aidilfitri prayers.

The government’s decision has also allayed concerns, especially among those who had been hoping to return to their hometowns for Hari Raya, after failing to do so in the past two years due to movement restrictions caused by the pandemic.

Senate member and council member of the Muslim Council of Elders, Datuk Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, welcomed the decision but advised state religious authorities to retain basic standard operating procedures such as the wearing of face masks as a precautionary measure.

“We must continue to make mosques and surau as the best examples of SOP implementation and compliance,” he said on Twitter.

Checks on social media also found that many were happy with the decision and described it as one of the best taken by the government and the culmination of hard work of all Malaysians, especially the frontliners who had battled resiliently against Covid-19.

Twitter user @fadhliehafiz expressed his gratitude for the decision and also gave a reminder on the importance of being vaccinated.

"Alhamdullillah. #ReopeningSafely. Congrats everyone! We worked hard for this. That is the importance of being vaccinated ya,” he said.

Source: The Edge Markets

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