Responding to the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s announcement to ease restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals in Malaysia, the Ministry of Health (KKM) said that they will only recommend easing the Covid-19 restrictions if more people are vaccinated.
KKM added that the standard operating procedure (SOP) such as mask-wearing should be maintained, even for those who are fully vaccinated.
According to The Star, Deputy Health director-general (Research and Technical Support) Datuk Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim explains that these are the lessons learnt from the experiences of countries that are seeing a rise in Covid-19 cases after loosening restrictions.
“We saw how countries like the United Kingdom, Israel and others in Europe have eased restrictions after achieving a high vaccination rate. But now, they are seeing an increase in infections.”
“In hindsight, they may have allowed these relaxations too early.”
“Although it’s true that being fully vaccinated means you are protected from serious Covid-19, we should not remove restrictions hastily.”
“The ministry is cautious about this. Currently, the decision is being discussed by the higher-ups in government.” Dr Hishamshah said at a press conference held yesterday (6 August).
Meanwhile, Dr Hishamshah said that the priority now is to get more people vaccinated.
Based on the current data, about 46% of the population have received at least one dose while 24.5% are fully vaccinated.
“If we can get 80%, that would be great. Or 40% to 50% would be good too. This will prevent a surge in cases.” he said.
Nonetheless, he added that the current Covid-19 preventive measures such as wearing a mask and physical distancing must still remain.
“The Covid-19 variants that are dominant right now are more transmissible and highly contagious.”
“So we need to still be wearing face masks and practise physical distancing. Gatherings of large crowds should not be allowed. These SOPs must remain applicable.” Dr Hishamshah said.
In addition, he said that in a genome sequencing conducted by the Institute for Medical Research (IMR), the Delta variant is currently the dominant strain of Covid-19 in Malaysia.
He added that the highly contagious variant is the major factor for the recent rise in Covid-19 cases too.
“Previously, the Wuhan strain had an infectivity rate of Rt 2 or 2.5. The Delta, meanwhile, is 5 to 8.”
“So to flatten the infection curve, it will take time and it is done differently.” he said.
At the same time, Dr Hishamshah said that Labuan and Sarawak are the proof that a high vaccination rate will reduce the number of serious Covid-19 cases.
“The number of hospitalisation, ICU admissions and Covid-19 deaths have shown a significant drop in Labuan and Sarawak.”
“If the same vaccination rates are applied in Semenanjung Malaysia, we will also see a decrease here.”
“The number of new cases may take a while to go down, but most importantly, we reduce the number of serious Covid-19 cases at hospitals.” he said.
Despite the high number of reported Covid-19 cases, he added that only 1.9% of the country’s daily cases are those in the more severe categories 3, 4 and 5.
Watch the full press conference here: