Monday, May 16, 2022

Malaysia declares move to endemic phase ahead of border reopening in April

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob says while case numbers have been on the rise, the number of severe infections remains under control.

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Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob today announced the country’s long-awaited transition to the endemic phase, with borders to reopen to international travellers on April 1.

In a nationwide address, he said the transition to the endemic phase was an exit strategy that would allow Malaysians to return to a near-normal life after nearly two years of battling the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is also a temporary phase before the country transitions to the endemic phase, which is dependent on an announcement that can only be made by the World Health Organization,” he said.

Once borders reopen, he said, Malaysians with valid travel documents will be able to enter and leave the country as usual, and visit countries which have likewise opened their borders to international travellers.

“At the same time, visitors with valid travel documents can also enter and leave the country without applying for a MyTravel pass.”

Adding that use of the pass would be abolished, Ismail said travellers would only need to download and activate the MySejahtera application, and fill up the pre-departure form through the traveller function in the app.

Nevertheless, he said, given the risks posed by Covid-19 and the Omicron varient, Malaysians and foreign visitors alike would have to continue adhering to several procedures.

He said those who have been fully vaccinated with two doses will not have to undergo quarantine but will only need to take a PCR test two days before departure and a professional RTK test within 24 hours of arrival, whether in the airport or at an outside facility.

The procedure for those who are not vaccinated, meanwhile, will be announced tomorrow.

A detailed list of SOPs for the reopening of borders will also be announced in the near future.

For countries that have yet to reopen to international travellers, Ismail said the Vaccinated Travel Lanes would remain in effect.

While face masks will remain mandatory in public spaces, Ismail said there would no longer be any limit on the operating hours for businesses from April 1 onwards.

“Premise owners can implement their own hours in accordance with their premise licence,” he said.

The use of MySejahtera will also remain compulsory, while MYSJTrace will be made mandatory for enclosed and highly populated areas.

Congregational prayer activities at mosques and suraus as well as houses of worship of religions other than Islam can also be carried out without physical distancing.

However, the implementation and final SOPs will be subject to the ruling of the state religious authorities and the national unity ministry.

Meanwhile, interstate travel will be allowed for all regardless of vaccination status, and the 50% limit for mass gatherings will be removed.

Talk of a move to the endemic phase of Covid-19 began last year, with the original target date set in October.

However, plans were scuppered by the fierce spike in cases fuelled by the Omicron variant, with the government saying in late November that precautionary measures would continue for the time being.

Putrajaya previously set seven criteria that would need to be met before the health ministry could declare Malaysia as entering the endemic phase of living with the Covid-19 virus.

These included the number of beds being utilised in hospitals and low-risk quarantine and treatment centres; testing capacity at laboratories; and the rate of positive cases.

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