Easing restrictions for fully vaccinated Malaysians

Covid-19 cases continue to climb in Malaysia, with daily infections breaching the dreaded 20,000 mark yesterday, 5th August 2021. Fortunately, vaccination rates have picked up too, with 23,161,255 registered individuals now administered their first and second vaccine doses.

With 7,998,831 individuals now fully vaccinated nationwide, the government is considering more relaxed restrictions, or standard operating procedures (SOPs), for those who have received their two doses of vaccine. These includes travel privileges between districts and states, and getting to dine out and engage in sport activities again.

The announcement is said to be made either today, or Saturday, 7th August.

Loosening restrictions, announced today or Saturday

Talks of easing restrictions for the fully vaccinated in Malaysia have been floating around since three weeks ago, with consideration for travel between districts and shopping included.

In an update to the reports, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said that the National Security Council (MKN) has indeed considered loosening restrictions, with an official announcement to come today, or Saturday, 7th August.

Loosening restrictions for fully vaccinated Malaysians - roadblock
Image credit: Info Roadblock Polis & JPJ Kedah/Perlis/Penang

Restrictions that may be lifted for those fully vaccinated include travel between states or districts to allow families to reunite, as reported by The Star on 5th AugustDining out may also be permitted for vaccinated family members, with Muhyiddin adding that eateries can proceed to prep for dining in once new SOPs are announced.

Individuals may be allowed to take up sport and recreational activities again too, such as going to the gym, and playing tennis, badminton or golf. Current activities given the green light for individuals under Phase One of the National Recovery Plan (PPN) include outdoor jogging and exercise.

Nonetheless, even with a possible room for more outdoor excursions, Muhyiddin reminded the public that the country has not yet reached herd immunity – where most of the population are fully vaccinated – and that everyone should continue to follow SOPs.

Update: The Health Ministry, however, has cautioned against loosened restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals at this time. Deputy Health director-general (Research and Technical Support) Datuk Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim cited examples of countries “hastily” relaxing Covid-19 safety measures only to see a spike in cases, as reported by The Star on 6th August.

Dr Hishamshah also noted that Malaysia should focus on increasing vaccinations and ensuring SOPs are followed instead. This is because the highly-transmissible Delta variant is now the dominant variant in our country.

Likewise, the relaxing rules under MCO 3.0 is said be another one of various factors that is causing the current uptick in cases, as revealed by Deputy Health director-general (Public Health) Datuk Dr Chong Chee Kheong.

New cases no longer considered for PPN phase transitions

Along with easing restrictions for the fully vaccinated, there will be a new indicator for states to move into the next phase of PPN, as announced by PPN Coordinating Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz. 

The previous three benchmarks to hit before the country could move on to the next phase comprise daily Covid-19 cases in the country, vaccination rates and condition of the national healthcare system.

Loosening restrictions for fully vaccinated Malaysians - category
Categories for Covid-19 infections, from patients exhibiting no symptoms to those in critical condition.
Image credit: Kemeterian Kesihatan Malaysia 

But now, daily Covid-19 cases will no longer be considered a threshold to meet for phase transitions. It will be replaced by the total Covid-19 cases exhibiting severe symptoms, based off new hospital admissions that are classified in categories three, four and five.

This is because most new cases in Malaysia are said to be classified as asymptomatic, or with mild symptoms, with low transmission rates in categories one and two.

Loosening restrictions for fully vaccinated Malaysians - cases
Image credit: Noor Hisham Abdullah

To put this into perspective, of yesterday’s total 20,596 new Covid-19 cases, 114 infections were classified as Category Five cases, with infected patients requiring the use of ventilators. 105 of them were unvaccinated, while 9 have had at least one vaccine dose.

The majority of cases were reported in Category One with no symptoms, with a total of 10,814 cases (52.5%) of which 88.1% are said to be unvaccinated. Category Two cases with mild symptoms made up 45.6% of cases, or 9,384 cases. Of these, 64.9% were unvaccinated.

Easing restrictions for fully vaccinated M’sians to be announced soon

Most Malaysia states are still under Phase One of PPN, with strict restrictions that doesn’t allow travel of more than 10KM from your home and dining in. So after months of lockdown, it’s refreshing to hear that rules may be relaxed for the fully vaccinated, as vaccination rate continues to increase in the country.

However, with Covid-19 cases still on a worrisome rise, and the emergence of variants in our communities, we should remain vigilant and adhere to safety measures at all times.

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Cover image (for illustration purposes only) adapted from: Polis Diraja Malaysia ( Royal Malaysia Police ) and The Summer Shopping Mall

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