KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia will give greater leeway for travel, dining out and engagement in outdoor sports to those who have completed Covid-19 vaccination in places that have moved out of the most serious phase of a nationwide lockdown.
Fully vaccinated Malaysian residents returning to the country will also be allowed to undergo quarantine at home.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced on Sunday (Aug 8) that local tourism within states or federal territories, non-contact outdoor sports and exercise, as well as dining at eateries will be allowed from Tuesday in places that have progressed to at least phase two of the National Recovery Plan.
Currently, these are Perlis, Sarawak and the federal territory of Labuan which are in phase three, as well as Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Perak, Penang and Sabah which are in phase two.
"I understand many are faced with pandemic fatigue. Taking into account feedback from the Health Ministry, the government is prepared to allow conveniences to those who have completed their vaccination," Tan Sri Muhyiddin said.
People will be able to enjoy the easing of restrictions 14 days after their second vaccine dose, or 28 days in the case of single-dose vaccines.
The vaccines mentioned by the Premier are those manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Johnson & Johnson and CanSino, which have been approved by Malaysia. It was not immediately clear if other vaccines would be accepted.
Exceptions will be made nationwide for fully vaccinated spouses, as well as parents and their children younger than 18, to meet after months of being divided by district or state lines.
The Prime Minister cautioned that dining in was riskier than other social activities as it involved removing face masks.
"I would like to advise the public to dine in only when necessary and not spend too long. Pick a location which has good ventilation," he said, adding that restaurateurs should prepare more open-air seats to reduce the risk of infection.
Fully vaccinated parents are allowed to take their children to eateries.
People who have completed their jabs will also be allowed to return to places of worship, subject to strict guidelines.
Mr Muhyiddin warned that the "government will not hesitate to revoke these conveniences if there are breaches of guidelines".
He also said relaxations for the economic sector are still being discussed and will be announced soon.
Over eight million people in Malaysia, or about 36 per cent of its adult population, have been fully inoculated against the coronavirus, with the government projecting 50 per cent coverage by the end of August.
At that point, the barometer for phases will shift from average daily cases and intensive care utilisation in hospitals to symptomatic hospital admissions, given that the vaccines have been proven to greatly reduce the risk of critical cases.
Under Malaysia's National Recovery Plan, phase one is a full lockdown of activities except those deemed essential, while phase two allows for slight easing of restrictions, especially in workplace operations.
The third phase sees most sectors of the economy operating while some curbs on social sectors remain, and phase four is nearly a full reopening.
About half of the country's daily infections - which breached 20,000 twice in the past week - have come from the Klang Valley, which comprises Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. The economic hub of the country remains in phase one.
A record 360 people succumbed to Covid-19 on Sunday, bringing the death toll to 10,749. Some 18,688 new patients were recorded, raising the total to 1,262,540 since the pandemic began.
The relaxed rules
Under the new rules, returning citizens and residents who are fully vaccinated can serve their quarantine at home from tomorrow. Currently, they must undergo quarantine at designated hotels.
For the first time in three months, interstate travels are allowed but only for fully vaccinated long-distance couples and parents visiting children under the age of 18.
Fully vaccinated residents may also enter houses of worship for prayers from tomorrow.
The government also eased certain restrictions in states and federal territories under the second and third phase of the National Recovery Plan. They are Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Perak, Penang, Sabah, Perlis, Labuan and Sarawak.
In these places, dine-ins are allowed with a seating capacity of 50 per cent per table. Cross-district travel and intrastate tourism involving homestays or hotels would also be allowed.
Residents there can practise sports without physical contact such as jogging, cycling, taiji, fishing, hiking, golf and skateboarding from 6am to 10pm.
Contact sports and group exercises remain prohibited, along with changing and showers at clubhouse premises.