KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will no longer use daily virus infections as a metric to ease curbs for states once they enter the second phase of the national recovery plan, Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz says.
The government will instead use Covid hospitalisation rate as one of the three indicators to allow states to move to the third and the final phase of the plan, he said in a video posted on his Facebook page. The two other thresholds — vaccination rate and ICU occupancy — will remain the same, he said.
“Once 40% of adults have been vaccinated, the number of new cases becomes less relevant because most cases show little to no symptoms, hence reducing the burden on public infrastructure,” said Zafrul.
While new daily cases topped a record 20,000 for the first time on Thursday, 98.1% of the cases showed light to zero symptoms, according to the Health Ministry. Still, there was always a chance that their health may deteriorate over time, Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement.
With new infections piling up, the government is focusing on speeding up its vaccination drive. About 31% of the adult population has received both doses of the vaccine, and 62% had at least one dose as of Aug 3, according to the health ministry.
Malaysia, with a population of 32 million, has recorded 1.2 million infections and 10,019 deaths since the pandemic began.
The hospitalisation rate must be no higher than 3 cases per 100,000 population for states to move from the second to the third phase of reopening, Zafrul said. Currently, the states of Penang, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Perak are in the second phase, which allows for opening up more economic sectors.
The third phase involves reopening of all economic activities with the exception of those on the negative list, according to the plan. Based on this new indicator, the government allowed Perlis, Sarawak and Labuan to enter the third phase beginning on Wednesday, Zafrul said.
To get to the final stage, the rate must be no more than 1.3 cases per 100,000 people, he said. States in this phase may reopen their social and economic sectors under new norms, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in July.
Most states are expected to reach this phase as early as October, according to the premier.\