Eight in 10 adults in Malaysia have received two doses of coronavirus vaccine, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Tuesday.
“Congratulations,” the recently installed premier said of the milestone, exhorting Malaysians to “keep fighting Covid-19.”
Despite reaching the 80-per-cent “herd immunity” target ahead of time, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin warned that the government aimed to “track down” those yet to be jabbed.
Hard-hit sectors such as tourism are hoping that inoculations can pave the way for reopening and recovery, with the head of one of the country’s main travel industry groups warning on Tuesday that the sector faces “total” collapse after 18 months of pandemic restrictions.
Related businesses “are in bad shape,” according to Tan Kok Liamg, President of the Malaysian Association of Tourism and Travel Agents (MATTA), citing “regulatory constraints imposed by the government.”
“As borders have remained closed for the last 18 months and with just a small travel bubble for Langkawi, we plead with Tengku Zafrul to provide targeted assistance,” Tan said, referring to the finance minister.
Before the pandemic, Malaysia’s annual visitor numbers were often the second highest in South-East Asia after Thailand, with tourism typically making up between 5 and 10 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
The government last week reopened Langkawi, a set of holiday islands, to vaccinated or immune domestic tourists.
But the country’s border has been closed to almost all visitors since March 2020 and recruitment of foreign workers cannot resume until next year, the government has said, despite linchpin factories and plantations complaining of staff shortages.
South-East Asia’s third wealthiest nation measured per capita, Malaysia has long been a draw for migrants from poorer neighbours.
The government has in recent weeks rolled back some curbs imposed in May as part of a third national lockdown, including lifting limits on domestic travel.
The “total lockdown” had failed to prevent a surge in daily virus-related deaths from single to triple figures and case numbers from soaring.
The crisis saw GDP contract in the second quarter and Muhyiddin Yassin replaced as prime minister last month by former defence minister Ismail Sabri.
The Health Ministry reported almost 16,000 new cases on Tuesday, four times as many as when the lockdown was imposed in May and pushing the cumulative number further past 2.1 million.
The ministry has recorded 23,744 pandemic-related deaths among a population of almost 33 million.