Malaysia’s new Covid cases top 22,000

Malaysia’s new Covid cases top 22,000

Figure close to August peak but hospital admissions much lower

Office buildings in the business district at night in Kuala Lumpur. (Photo: Bloomberg)
Office buildings in the business district at night in Kuala Lumpur. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Malaysia’s new Covid-19 cases neared a level last seen in August when the country was battling the peak of an outbreak of the delta variant.

The nation reported 22,802 new infections on Saturday, the most since Aug 26 when cases hit a record 24,599. The fresh data also topped Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah’s forecast last week for infections to reach 22,000 by end-March. 

Malaysia’s rising vaccination rate — nearly 80% of the total population of 32 million have completed their regime and 56% of adults have got booster shots — has kept hospital admission rates manageable. The government is still taking a cautious approach before declaring the transition to the endemic phase of the outbreak amid the omicron wave, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Friday. 

The government has said it will avoid a repeat of last year’s lockdowns that pushed the economy into contraction for two quarters. The focus is on the severity of the infections, rather than the number. Almost 99% of daily cases comprise of patients showing mild or no symptoms. The omicron wave is expected to peak in the second half of March, Khairy has said. 

Hospital admissions on Friday stood at 1,637, versus almost 3,000 in August, and the average occupancy rate of the hospital beds was 66%, data from the health ministry show. 

A government advisory council on Tuesday proposed a full opening of borders by March without the need for mandatory quarantine, backed by data on hospital occupancy and vaccination rates. The cabinet has yet to discuss the proposal, local media quoted Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob as saying on Saturday.

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