Malaysia 'must move on' to endemic phase, says senior minister

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the government was aware that many were worried over the surge in cases of the Omicron variant. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia must hold fast to its decision to transit to the endemic phase, said Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

"The final decision (on dates) will be made by the Covid-19 pandemic management special committee, which is chaired by Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and involves members of the opposition as well as health experts.

"We must not sway from our decision to move to the endemic phase. We must move forward," he told reporters after attending a ministers' meeting at Wisma Pertahanan on Tuesday (Feb 8).

Mr Hishammuddin said the government was aware that many were worried over the surge in cases of the Omicron variant.

"But as we have seen via the Health Ministry reports, although positive cases are high, intensive care unit bed occupancy remains low.

"This shows that the health system nationwide is still under control and not burdened," he said.

He reiterated the government's stand against reimposing large-scale movement control orders (MCOs).

"It won't be a good move now because the economy, education system and livelihoods of the rakyat must continue moving," he said, adding that only an enhanced MCO would be enforced within a locality that sees a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases.

Mr Hishammuddin also said the Immigration Department, Health Ministry and Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry will study the National Recovery Council's (NRC) recommendation to fully reopen Malaysia's borders on March 1.

He noted that the reopening of the borders is a major decision involving many factors.

"We want people to come into our country but other countries have not made the same decision (to reopen their borders).

"It's a big decision that can only be discussed at the Cabinet or the Covid-19 pandemic management special committee level," he said.

The standard operation procedure requiring temperature checks and manual recording of personal particulars for entry to premises will be abolished from Feb 11, Mr Hishammuddin added. Checking in with the MySejahtera application when visiting locations, however, will remain mandatory.

He also said the government would have a new set of safety measures for umrah travel, including making the booster dose compulsory and allowing for home quarantine upon returning, starting on Feb 14.

Separately, former premier and Perikatan Nasional chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has tested positive for Covid-19.

Mr Muhyiddin, who also heads the country's NRC, said this was detected in a PCR test he took on Wednesday morning, adding that he is experiencing only mild symptoms.

The Pagoh MP also said he will abide by Health Ministry measures to self-isolate at home.

"To anyone who might have been my close contact, my advice is to abide by the protocols set by the Health Ministry," he said.

Requirements for Malaysian umrah pilgrims to receive a Covid-19 vaccine booster is based on a request by the Saudi Arabian government, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Idris Ahmad on Tuesday.

"The booster dose is a requirement by the Saudi government for umrah pilgrims. It (Saudi Arabia) has issued a circular, so we have to comply," he said.

"The door to the Holy Land is open from today, so our pilgrims have to follow the conditions set in order to go there."

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