Malaysia's Health Minister warns of rising Covid-19 hospitalisations as interstate travel resumes

In the past week, Malaysia's cumulative Covid-19 cases fell by 17.9 per cent.
In the past week, Malaysia's cumulative Covid-19 cases fell by 17.9 per cent.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia on Thursday (Oct 21) warned of rising hospitalisations even though the overall Covid-19 situation continued to show signs of improvement despite the easing of travel restrictions nationwide.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said admissions in the Klang Valley, the country's biggest urban centre, has been on the rise since the interstate travel ban was lifted on Oct 11, allowing free movement across the country for vaccinated individuals. The east Malaysian state of Sarawak has also been hit by a spike in admissions, he said.

"The conclusion today is that we at MOH (Ministry of Health) are looking at some leading indicators and it is showing a trend of admissions, and that is worrying," Mr Khairy said during a press conference on Thursday (Oct 21), saying that his ministry is looking deeper into the issue to ensure that serious Covid-19 cases in hospitals are reduced.

Mr Khairy also announced on Thursday that Malaysia would start offering booster shots to those who received Sinovac vaccines more than three months ago, with priority given according to risk evaluation.

The boosters would be heterologous, using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. These would be on top of the ongoing booster shots being offered to high-risk individuals who were fully vaccinated more than six months ago.

In the past week, Malaysia's cumulative Covid-19 cases fell by 17.9 per cent, and the incidence rate per 100,000 people fell by 20.9 per cent.

Deaths dropped by 15.3 per cent last week, making it five weeks in a row in which cases have declined.

The positivity rate in the country has also been falling, with the average plunging from more than 12 per cent during the August peak of infections to 4.28 per cent on Thursday, indicating that the pandemic had been brought under relative control as per World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

Active cases had sharply declined from a peak of over 260,000 patients in August to 83,223 active Covid-19 patients on Wednesday.

Malaysia recorded 6,210 cases on Thursday, a slight increase after three days of registering just over 5,000 cases. The country has reported 28,138 deaths in total so far.

Malaysia reopened its interstate borders for the first time since January earlier this month, providing a boost to the economy as well as domestic tourism. The easing followed the government's decision to shift its strategy to treat Covid-19 as endemic, which would mean - living with the virus while managing the load on the healthcare system.

But almost all social activities in the country are restricted to only vaccinated individuals. Almost all or 94.2 per cent of the adult population and 71.2 per cent of the total population have been fully vaccinated, The country is also inoculating its adolescent population.

Malaysia is also considering reopening its borders - closed since the onset of the pandemic - to fully vaccinated travellers by the end of the year.

The country is also set to hold its first state elections. The Covid-19 situation had led to by-elections in two parliamentary constituencies and also a state election in Sarawak being postponed, but the Election Commission announced earlier this week that the Melaka state assembly elections would be held on Nov 20. Nearly half a million voters are eligible to take part in the polls.