Malaysia set to reopen Langkawi islands to tourists under local travel bubble plan

Langkawi will open to locals under a travel bubble plan from Sept 16, 2021.
Langkawi will open to locals under a travel bubble plan from Sept 16, 2021.PHOTO: ST FILE

KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) - Malaysia plans to reopen the tourist haven of Langkawi islands as it renews efforts to rebuild parts of the economy worst hit by the pandemic.

Langkawi, in the state of Kedah, will open to locals under a travel bubble plan from Sept 16, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a statement on Thursday (Sept 2). Other destinations will be allowed to operate when the locality's vaccination rate hits 80 per cent, he said.

Malaysia is preparing for life with Covid-19 even as daily cases remain elevated, mirroring Thailand's tourism-reopening plan based on a pilot project in the popular resort island of Phuket.

Covid-19 will be treated as endemic and it is time for Malaysians to learn to live with the virus, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said at a briefing on Wednesday.

New infections have soared despite the containment measures, hitting a record 24,599 in a single day late last month and turning the country into South-east Asia's Covid-19 hot spot. The nation added 20,988 cases on Thursday.

Still, the virus' effective reproduction rate, or R-naught, has fallen below 1 nationwide for the first time in few months, Datuk Seri Ismail said, amid an increase in vaccination.

More than 84 per cent of the adult population has received at least one dose, and 64 per cent has been fully inoculated, according to the health ministry.

Based on projected data, the average vaccination rate among adults in each state is expected to reach 80 per cent by month-end, and 100 per cent by end of October, Mr Ismail said.

"Eventually we have to live with Covid-19 as is the case around the world," he said.

Meantime, Melaka state will move into the second phase, and Negeri Sembilan into the third stage of the national recovery plan from Saturday after meeting the threshold limits in reducing Covid-19 infections, the prime minister said.

The decision was made by the National Security Council, which will now be renamed as the Special Committee on Pandemic Management, he said. The committee will include representatives from opposition parties as well.