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Health Minister: Malaysia may lift interstate travel ban as early as 18 March if COVID-19 numbers are low

Malaysia’s Movement Control Order 2.0 (MCO 2.0) comes to an end today as most states have been placed under Recovery and Conditional Movement Control Order (RMCO/CMCO). Interdistrict travel restrictions have been lifted nationwide except for Sabah, but interstate travel is still not allowed.

If you’re yearning to travel to other states, Health Minister Dr Adham Baba has indicated that interstate travel ban may be lifted as early as 18th March 2021 if Malaysia’s COVID-19 numbers decline to manageable numbers. In an interview with MalayMail, he said that his ministry will make the recommendation to the government but it may not be a blanket reopening of state borders compared to last year, to prevent a surge of new infections.

Dr Adham said they have learnt for a year from the various movement control order restrictions and they know that interstate travel restriction is one of the measures required to reduce the number of cases. He added that restricting domestic travel has been undertaken in other countries such as Australia, China, South Korea and Singapore.

Last month, Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham had said that public health SOP and travel restrictions will not be relaxed until Malaysia achieves herd immunity. When asked to comment about the Health D-G’s remarks, Dr Adham said “What the director-general meant was to reach herd immunity but that is only the maximum measure, but we go earlier as we want to balance life and livelihood”.

The Minister also said that the government is treading cautiously this time and they are looking at allowing interstate travel between green bubbles. This may include travel between states that are under RMCO.

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At the moment, Malaysia has been recording an average of 2,035 cases daily in the past week. The number of active cases has declined gradually as more recoveries are reported than the number of new cases daily in the past few weeks. According to Dr Noor Hisham, the current overall infectivity rate (RT) is 0.87.

However, several states are still showing infectivity rates above 1.00. This include Penang with RT of 1.14, Negeri Sembilan at 1.02 and both Perak and Sarawak with 1.07.

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Alexander Wong