Coronavirus: Malaysia considers relaxing movement restrictions for the fully vaccinated

Malaysia returned to a hard lockdown on June 1 after the outbreak began to worsen around end-May. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, BLOOMBERG) - The Malaysian government is looking into relaxing restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated, including allowing people to travel or dine at restaurants, says Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin said this is part of the national recovery plan as the country gradually adjusts towards returning to normal life.

"I've asked for relaxation to be considered for those who have received two vaccine doses. This could be for their travel or dining in at restaurants. This will show that while we battle with Covid-19, we can gradually return to normal life," he said.

"The national recovery plan will take until the end of the year, so let's be patient. Be confident that we can win this war," added Mr Muhyiddin at a press conference on Thursday (July 15).

Mr Muhyiddin said the national vaccination programme is a "light at the end of the tunnel" in the country's battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We managed to vaccinate over 421,000 people in a day, and hopefully this can be maintained. Now, our focus is the greater Klang Valley. Through our targeted measures, we can deal with the Covid-19 infections better," said Mr Muhyiddin.

"We hope that our vaccine supplies will also continue increasing this month and next, so we can keep to our projection of completing the recovery plan by the end of the year," added the Prime Minister.

Malaysia has fully vaccinated 12.3 per cent, or 4 million, of its population by Wednesday (July 14). And 26.5 per cent of the population, or 8.64 million have received at least one dose, officials say.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has given conditional approval for Covid-19 home self-test kits to be used by the Malaysian public, as infections hit record highs of over 11,000 cases daily.

The Medical Device Authority (MDA) said in a statement that it has approved the conditional import and distribution of Covid-19 self-test kits, to help detect and control infections and reduce the burden on the country's health workers.

"These self-test kits do not replace the real-time diagnostic function of RT-PCR (reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction) tests, but it has the advantage of screening patients quickly, " it said.

The MDA said the list of approved Covid-19 self-test kits will be displayed on its website.

Two Covid-19 self-test kits have passed technical evaluation and performance testing and will be granted import and distribution permission "in the near future", it said, adding that another 15 are currently undergoing laboratory tests.

A man receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Banting, near Kuala Lumpur. PHOTO: EPA

President of the Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS), Amrahi Buang said the self-test kits are by no means a diagnostics tool and should be supplemented with an RT-PCR test to eliminate false positives. But they can help ramp up testing.

The RT-PCR test is still considered the gold standard in diagnosing Covid-19 and is able to detect minute quantities of Covid-19 virus' ribonucleic acid (RNA) in nasal or throat swab samples.

A quick check by The Star found several pharmacies in the Klang Valley had already started taking pre-orders for self test-kits.

A pharmacist told the newspaper that demand for the Covid-19 self-test kits is high and the outlet has been getting many enquiries.

Another outlet, which was offering a similar Covid-19 saliva self-test kit for RM39.90 (S$12.80) for one and six for RM219.60 (S$70.80) on pre-order, had run out of stock.

Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Wednesday said that more Malaysian states may move into the second phase of the national recovery plan by early August following an increase in the vaccination rate.

The country dispensed more than 420,000 shots for two days this week, a record. That has helped the government exceed the aim of covering 10 per cent of the population in July.

The accelerated vaccine roll-out has allowed the government to ease curbs in eight states even as the nationwide cases topped a record 11,000 for a second straight day on Wednesday.

Vaccination coverage however is just one of three goals that states have to meet to move to the second phase, which involves opening up more economic sectors.

"If these positive development continue, the whole country will be able to move to Phase 2 in early August," Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri said in a statement. "The country is on the right track to achieve herd immunity."

Malaysia returned to a hard lockdown on June 1 after the outbreak began to worsen around end-May. The closing of all but essential sectors is costing the economy RM1 billion (S$322.3 million) a day, Mr Muhyiddin said last month.

The country plans to open in four phases based on three criteria: vaccination coverage, the number of daily cases, and manageable level of ICU bed usage. Sectors allowed to operate in phase two are book and stationery shops, car wash services, barber and electrical appliances shops.

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