By Corina Tan
Malaysia has reached its goal of 90 per cent adult vaccination under the National Immunisation Program, and is set to allow fully vaccinated individuals to travel. Both the interstate and outbound international borders have reopened on October 11, 2021, allowing many families to be reunited with their loved ones after a long time apart. The move also seeks to revitalise the local tourism industry that had been heavily affected by lockdowns since early 2020 and allows international business travel to resume. In September, a pilot travel bubble project was launched for the island of Langkawi with plans to also add Genting Highlands, Melaka and Tioman Island to that list in early October, but the decision was put on hold until 90 per cent of adult vaccination was achieved.
In his national address on Sunday, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri said that if the majority of the population exercises caution and discipline in their daily routine and movement, we will be able to maintain stability and smoothly transition into an endemic phase with ease. He reiterated the need to obey all SOPs and reminded the public that while interstate roadblocks will no longer be carried out, the police may still be checking individual vaccination status using the My Sejahtera application to ensure that only fully vaccinated individuals are moving and crossing borders. He suggested that public rest areas could be one of the locations these random checks would be carried out, but that it would be up to the discretion of the police. The opening of interstate borders however does not extend to localities placed under Enhanced Movement Control Order.
The MyTravelPass (MTP) for outbound international travel is now no longer needed for fully vaccinated Malaysian citizens, and people who wish to travel overseas may now do so with ease. The scheme was first introduced to curb unnecessary movement out of the country for tourism purposes that could have had devastating outcomes in the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, with the progress made in vaccination as well as the reduction in ICU cases and deaths, the government is happy to do away with the MTP so that Malaysians can travel for work, business and be reunited with family overseas. Covid-19 tests will still be carried out 3 days before flying and all health protocols remain the same. Those returning to Malaysia will still need to undergo the 14-day quarantine requirement as before.
The Prime Minister said that vaccination has successfully achieved its intended purpose to lower daily cases of Covid-19 as well as patient admission rates to the ICU by 83 per cent and death rates by 88 per cent, respectively. Since early Oct, Malaysia has seen a downward trend in daily cases with numbers below 10,000. People are encouraged to continue with health protocols including social distancing, mandatory mask-wearing, refraining from large public gatherings and performing home Covid-19 tests before travelling. The takeaway message was for Malaysians not to be complacent and continue to uphold strict protocols for themselves and family as the country moves forward.