Malaysia to receive its first batch of vaccines on Sunday

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will be the first to be immunised with the initial batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. PHOTO: AFP

PUTRAJAYA - Only three Malaysian states - Selangor, Johor and Penang - as well as the federal capital Kuala Lumpur will remain in a partial lockdown from Friday (Feb 19), just days before the country gets its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines. Restrictions will be eased in the rest of the country.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced at the launch of the vaccination plan guidebook on Tuesday (Feb 16) that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines would arrive on Sunday, ahead of the scheduled Feb 26 roll-out of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin will be the first to be inoculated against the virus, followed by around 500,000 people working on the front lines of the Covid-19 battle, a majority of them healthcare workers. The others include welfare officers, security staff and elected representatives.

"Among those who have close contact with the public are MPs and state assemblymen. Whether they are with the government or opposition, they will be vaccinated in the first phase," Mr Muhyiddin said after the launch.

The first phase will end in April and vaccines will then be made available to 9.4 million people in high-risk groups, such as those with certain diseases, those above the age of 65 and other medical professionals.

The rest of adults living in Malaysia, including foreign workers, will be eligible for vaccination between May and next February.

Malaysia previously said that it had secured enough vaccines to cover nearly all of its 33 million population. The target is to vaccinate 80 per cent of all adults by the end of the year or by February next year at the latest.

The first batch of vaccines arriving on Sunday will contain 312,390 doses. Each individual needs two doses. Malaysia has secured 12.8 million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech.

Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Tuesday announced that following a recent downward trend in cases, the movement control order (MCO) will be retained only in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor, with the rest of the country going under the mid-tier conditional movement control order.

Perlis, the smallest state, will come under the recovery MCO, in which almost all of the economy will be allowed to reopen.

The MCO will be in force until March 4, because virus cases have remained high in the three states and the capital, which are the four biggest economies in the country and are home to more than a third of the population.

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri said the specific protocols concerning the different tiers of lockdown will be released on Thursday.

Malaysia's second iteration of the MCO, implemented on Jan 13, is a much more relaxed version of the first order put in place for three months last year during the second wave of coronavirus infections.

While the first MCO saw a near total lockdown of the country, except for essential services, the current MCO, dubbed MCO 2.0, allows for different sectors of the economy to reopen progressively.

MCO 2.0 initially failed to show results, as the number of cases continued to surge, reaching an all-time high of 5,728 daily on Jan 30.

However, that number has begun to dip in the past week.

Malaysia recorded 2,176 cases on Monday, the lowest daily case tally since Jan 11. The Health Ministry also said the infectivity rate of the virus had dipped to below 1.0, although it is still some way off from the target rate of 0.6 and below.

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