PUTRAJAYA - Malaysia's Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the country could end its transition to Covid-19 endemicity by the end of the year, and that a voluntary annual vaccination programme may be introduced.
"The whole of Malaysia is still declared a pandemic area by the Minister of Health. That comes up for renewal on the 31st of December. I'll decide whether to extend that," Mr Khairy said in an interview with foreign media on Friday.
In the endemic phase, people at high-risk such as the elderly or immunocompromised would still have access to free Covid-19 vaccines on an annual basis so that they are protected against the coronavirus, he said.
For now, monitoring daily key statistics such as the number of Covid-19 hospitalised cases is also important, as well as the international consensus by the World Health Organisation, Mr Khairy said.
"As long as (Malaysia's numbers) stay where they are now, then I am quite confident that by the end of the year... we will be in an endemic situation," he said.
Under the endemic phase, quarantines would no longer be required. Currently, positive cases who are issued a home surveillance order are legally required to quarantine.
"Once we are comfortable, then we can remove the legal requirement," Mr Khairy said. "And I think, largely, Malaysians have been doing the responsible thing because the numbers show that the situation is so far under control."
Malaysia has seen over 30,000 fatalities so far and a shortage of beds and other resources, particularly during the height of the pandemic last year.
However, in "a signal of preparedness", the government was able to ramp up surge capacity in hospitals this year during the Omicron wave to ensure enough beds, intensive care units and ventilators, Mr Khairy said.
"Thankfully Omicron was not deadly" he noted, adding: "If Omicron was a dress rehearsal for ...