Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said he expects Malaysia to start living with the virus in less than two months time
Khairy said yesterday, 1 September, that he fully expects that the COVID-19 pandemic will be downgraded to endemic status by 31 October.
He makes this prediction based on the Health Ministry’s target to fully vaccinate at least 80% of the country’s total population by then, reports New Straits Times.
The term endemic refers to "the occurrence of a constant presence of a disease or infectious agent in a particular area or districts at a low and stable rate", as per Bernama.
For reference, dengue remains an endemic disease in Malaysia.
He says his ministry is currently discussing "fresh and less complicated" standard operating procedures (SOPs) in anticipation of this shift
Despite the expected status change, Khairy asserts that the threat of the virus will still loom large, at least in the interim.
He says that people will still have to adhere to the SOPs and exercise self-control, so we may "live and remain safe, even though the virus is still among us."
The government will continue to make mask-wearing mandatory, which is in response to new highly infectious variants which are emerging.
"We have seen how some countries had to (do this)... so we will retain the mask mandate," Khairy was quoted by Bernama.
Khairy cites the successes of Labuan and Sarawak, which he says are already in a COVID-19 endemic state
"In the case of Labuan, and to a lesser extent Sarawak, they are already in an endemic phase," said the Health Minister in his maiden press conference.
"So I can say by then (when we reach 80%), we will reach a phase where we can start living with the virus."
For the record, as of 1 September, Labuan has achieved 65.0% of the total population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, whereas Sarawak posted 63.2%.
The capital region of the Klang Valley sits between the two, at 68.3% fully vaccinated.
Malaysia's total population is as-of-yet a far cry from Khairy's target at just 46.7%.
At the same time, Khairy also said his ministry will look at ways to tackle the current high number of cases.
However, the metric to focus on moving forward are hospitalisations and deaths.
Khairy said that from 16 July to 31 August, there were 865,472 new cases of COVID-19 reported.
From this number, only 2.1% are in the symptomatic categories of three to five, while only 10.4% of the total cases were from fully vaccinated individuals.
"So we can see that the vaccines work, even with the Delta variant," he was quoted as saying by New Straits Times.
"The situation is still under control in terms of hospital admissions and so on. This is just like in other advanced countries, where vaccination and infection rates are high, but ICU admissions and deaths are lower."
In a separate report by the daily, Khairy also went on to state unequivocally that zero deaths have been recorded from COVID-19 vaccinations so far.
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