Coronavirus: World

Malaysia passes 2m mark for virus cases even as daily toll falls

Govt to drastically reduce curbs as country moves into endemic phase at end-October

Malaysia recorded 15,669 new Covid-19 infections yesterday, bringing the cumulative total case number past the two million mark at 2.011 million.

It took the country more than a year to hit the one million mark on July 25, and the severity of the latest wave of infections is clear as it took less than two months to hit another million. The death toll stood at 21,124 as at Monday.

Yesterday's number of new infections is the lowest for a single day since end-July and is the fourth consecutive day of falling cases.

Initially a success story in containing Covid-19, Malaysia has struggled to contain the coronavirus since a resurgence in cases in September last year following a state legislative election in Sabah. The economy has been badly hit this year by a series of prolonged lockdowns which did little to curb the rising infections largely caused by the more transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The government yesterday announced plans to drastically simplify Covid-19 restrictions.

Senior Minister for Security Hishamuddin Hussein said the country aims to slash its list of 181 standard operating procedures (SOP) to just 10 by the time it transitions to an endemic phase at the end of October.

The current SOP list covers all states and territories in various stages of the four-phase Covid-19 exit plan. Under the revised list, all states and territories are expected to be aligned in the final phase of recovery by the end of October, when Malaysia is scheduled to have completed vaccinating its entire adult population.

"The effort to revise SOPs that have been used for more than a year will definitely take some time, but the government is committed to achieving this before the transition to the endemic phase," Datuk Seri Hishamuddin, who is also Defence Minister, said in a statement after a meeting of the quartet of ministers handling the country's pandemic response. The other three are Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, Communications and Multimedia Minister Annuar Musa and Finance Minister Zafrul Aziz.

Mr Hishamuddin said the meeting also agreed on several other measures to ease restrictions in the economic and social sectors, and these will be announced by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob in the near future.

Tengku Zafrul, in a separate statement, said a memorandum of understanding inked between the government and the main opposition Pakatan Harapan bloc would bolster economic recovery in the final quarter of this year.

The minister disclosed that the Cabinet had agreed last Friday to raise the ceiling limit for Covid-19 funds to RM110 billion (S$35.5 billion) from RM65 billion previously. It will also raise the statutory debt limit to 65 per cent of gross domestic product.

The amendments will be tabled in Parliament in October to help bolster the public healthcare system and to spur economic activity as well.

Malaysia is also changing the way it is reporting on Covid-19 figures, shifting its focus to vaccinations and the rate of hospital bed utilisation as it prepares to reopen the economy and live with Covid-19.

Almost 75 per cent of Malaysia's adult population have been fully vaccinated as at Monday. More than half, or 53.5 per cent, of the total population are fully inoculated.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2021, with the headline 'Malaysia passes 2m mark for virus cases even as daily toll falls'. Subscribe