Malaysian PM urges people to get jab in Independence Day message

Malaysia's Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob yesterday urged the people to get vaccinated soon to ensure "victory" in the prolonged battle with Covid-19.

In a nationwide address on the eve of Independence Day, the newly-installed Prime Minister said that vaccines had proved to have a positive impact in battling the pandemic.

"Based on data and facts, trust that only by the cooperation of all parties, this war against Covid-19 can end with a victory," said Datuk Seri Ismail.

He also said that he wished that this was the last Independence Day for the country to be in the grip of the pandemic, which has ravaged its health system as well as its economy.

"Let's free our country from this pandemic, from our economic struggle, and from political uncertainty," said the Prime Minister.

Mr Ismail was speaking after his 31 Cabinet ministers were sworn in by the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, during a ceremony earlier in the day at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur.

The new government is the second in less than two years following the resignation of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister after just 17 months on the job earlier this month. He had to quit after losing his majority in Parliament.

Mr Ismail, however, was unable to attend his Cabinet's swearing-in ceremony, with the Prime Minister's Office disclosing that he had been identified as a close contact of a Covid-19 patient and ordered to serve a 14-day home quarantine.

Malaysia has struggled with Covid-19 for most of this year, and much of the country has faced economic restrictions and lockdowns since May.

Mr Ismail has already indicated his intention to reopen the economy gradually, while warning Malaysians that Covid-19 would become endemic, and that they would need to learn to live with the coronavirus.

The country recorded 19,268 new infections yesterday, bringing the total number of cases to more than 1.72 million since the pandemic started. Another 295 people died of Covid-19, bringing the total death toll to 16,382.

But Malaysia can also boast of one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. It administered another 302,804 doses on Sunday, and has previously dispensed as many as half a million a day.

Official figures show that 82.8 per cent of adults had received one dose of the vaccine, with 62.6 per cent fully vaccinated. The government aims to finish vaccinating the entire adult population by the end of October.

But infections have remained high despite the progress in vaccinations, partially due to the states with lower vaccination rates.

Eight Malaysian states yesterday recorded four-figure infection rates, with Sabah, Sarawak, Kedah, Johor and Selangor all reporting more than 2,000 cases each. The other three - Kelantan, Penang and Perak - all recorded more than 1,000 infections.

Independence Day celebrations, including an airshow by the Royal Malaysian Air Force and other military displays, will take place in the administrative capital Putrajaya this morning.

But the celebrations will be held in a controlled environment without any spectators, and Malaysians have been urged to watch the live telecast on television.

Mr Ismail is also expected to join the celebrations virtually due to his home quarantine.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2021, with the headline Malaysian PM urges people to get jab in Independence Day message. Subscribe