PUTRAJAYA, Sept 1 — Malaysia is expected to move into an endemic Covid-19 phase by the end of next month as the nation proceeds to “live with the virus” with new variants emerging beyond Delta.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin today said the country has to accept that Covid-19 will be always present in Malaysia, and that measures to manage the virus now must be targeted towards keeping deaths and hospitalisation rates linked to the coronavirus under control.
He said this is consistent with the approach taken by other countries that have shifted their coronavirus strategy from total containment to an endemic phase, which allows economic sectors to operate and lives to return to some semblance of normalcy.
“I think if you look at the case of Labuan, and to a lesser extent Sarawak, they are already at an endemic stage. So, I can say that by end of October, we will reach that sort of endemic cut off point where we have to start looking at living with the virus.
“We are already living with it, but at some stage, we are still at mitigation/containment… but by now until the end of October, we will be looking at living with it,” Khairy told a media briefing in Putrajaya today.
The federal government is expected to announce a list of standard operating procedures (SOPs) that are simpler and easier to understand while retaining mask mandates when the nation enters the endemic phase.
Khairy said part of the endemic strategy will include a national testing strategy to ensure that regular testing is conducted, especially among unvaccinated communities, to curb the spread of the virus.
“In the event that there are still people who refuse to be vaccinated, not on medical grounds, but they don’t want to be vaccinated, and we refuse or don’t go for a federal mandate by law, we don’t go all the way, what are our options?
“Some of the things we are looking at is a national testing strategy. Once we go into endemic, whether you’ve been vaccinated or not, you need to test yourself quite regularly. And that is why we want to make testing more affordable and more accessible.
“So, those who refuse to get vaccinated will need to have a certain schedule or regime of testing that they have to do, whether it is a rapid test kit (or PCR test)…if it is positive then they have to do a PCR test.
“We will come up with a national testing policy to hopefully take into account those who refuse to get vaccinated. But my preference is if you have no medical reason to not be vaccinated, go ahead and get vaccinated,” Khairy said.
Khairy said the government will also encourage what he deemed as “sectoral persuasion”.
“It’s not law, it’s not a federal mandate. But if a particular company says if you have to come to work, you have to be vaccinated, then you need to be vaccinated if you want to work for that company.”