Malaysia lifted interstate and international travel restrictions for residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as the country achieved its target of inoculating 90% of its adult population.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government has agreed to allow fully vaccinated Malaysians to travel overseas without applying for permission.
The new rules take effect on Monday.
The government is preparing to shift into an endemic COVID-19 phase where it will not impose wide lockdowns again if cases rise, Ismail Sabri told a news conference.
“We have to train ourselves to live with COVID, because COVID may not be eliminated fully,” he said.
Nearly 65% of the country’s 32 million population, including those aged 12 to 17, were fully vaccinated as of Saturday.
The Southeast Asian nation has recorded 2.3 million coronavirus infections and 27,265 deaths from COVID-19.
Azrul Mohd Khalib, head of the Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy, said that the reopening of state borders will surely result in another spike of coronavirus infections, especially among younger people who are yet to be vaccinated fully.
“Now that there’s going to be this interstate travel, there’s going to be a reduction of all these restrictions. There could be a massive surge in the number of cases that are going to be reported,” Azrul said in a webinar titled “Covid-19: Achieving Herd Immunity and the Way Forward”, organised by Penang Institute on October 7.
“It’s not so much the fact that people are getting infected or breakthrough cases.”
Azrul emphasised that the public health care system, including health care resources, should be ready to accommodate a future surge of Covid-19 cases as the country’s borders reopen.
“There could be more people who are going to be hospitalised, falling seriously ill and dying as a result of it and that’s going to be a price to be paid. It will happen. This is the thing,” said Azul.
“This announcement, that’s going to be coming in the next couple of days, we thought there will be a resurgence of cases. We saw that in Langkawi just recently with this bubble that they created.”