Malaysia may enter endemic phase of Covid-19 by end of the year

PUTRAJAYA - Malaysia's Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the country could end its transition to Covid-19 endemicity by the end of the year, and that a voluntary annual vaccination programme may be introduced.

"The whole of Malaysia is still declared a pandemic area by the Minister of Health. That comes up for renewal on the 31st of December. I'll decide whether to extend that," Mr Khairy said in an interview with foreign media on Friday.

In the endemic phase, people at high risk, such as the elderly or immuno-compromised, would still have access to free Covid-19 vaccines on an annual basis so that they are protected against the coronavirus, he said.

For now, monitoring daily key statistics such as the number of Covid-19 hospitalised cases is also important, and Malaysia will take its cue from the international consensus by the World Health Organisation, Mr Khairy said.

"As long as (Malaysia's numbers) stay where they are now, then I am quite confident that by the end of the year... we will be in an endemic situation," he said.

Under the endemic phase, quarantine would end. Currently, Covid-19 positive cases who are issued a home surveillance order are legally required to quarantine.

"Once we are comfortable, then we can remove the legal requirement," he said. "And I think, largely, Malaysians have been doing the responsible thing because the numbers show that the situation is so far under control."

Malaysia has seen more than 30,000 Covid-19 fatalities so far.

The country also experienced a shortage of beds and other resources, particularly during the height of the pandemic last year.

However, in "a signal of preparedness", the government was able to ramp up surge capacity in hospitals this year during the Omicron wave to ensure enough beds, intensive care units and ventilators, Mr Khairy said.

"Thankfully Omicron was not deadly," he noted, adding: "If Omicron was a dress rehearsal for another deadly wave, then I think we are ready."

Malaysia reported 2,111 new Covid-19 cases for Sept 21 - bringing the total to 4,823,975 - and six deaths.

Only 4.3 per cent of positive cases required hospitalisation, with 95.4 per cent undergoing home quarantine.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2022, with the headline Malaysia may enter endemic phase of Covid-19 by end of the year. Subscribe