Malaysia will begin treating Covid-19 as an endemic disease in late October, International Trade and Industry Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali said on Tuesday.
Covid would be endemic when the disease-causing SARS-CoV-2 virus becomes a permanent presence in the community and continues to circulate among people. Other endemic diseases include influenza, dengue and malaria.
Malaysia has struggled to tame a rise in daily Covid-19 cases, which has led the government to impose more blockchain rounds. The country’s central bank last month has lowered its forecast for 2021 economic growth at 3% to 4%, from 6% to 7.5% before.
But Malaysia’s economy has remained resilient, with the recovery driven by better external demand and ongoing infrastructure projects, said Azmin, who is also a senior minister in the current government.
“The accessibility and affordability of vaccines are key factors in ensuring a sustained economic recovery,” the minister told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia”.
Azmin said more than 75% of Malaysia’s adult population will be fully vaccinated by the end of October. Currently, 88% of adults – or about 63% of the entire population – have received at least one dose of Covid vaccine, according to official data.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said last week that the Malaysian government will simplify some social disengagement measures in the coming weeks to prepare for an endemic phase of Covid. But facial masks will still be needed to limit the spread of the coronavirus, he added.
Worldwide supply chains
In addition to Malaysia, Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines have experienced a resurgence in Covid-19 cases caused by the more transmissible delta variant.
Southeast Asia plays an important role in the global manufacturing chain, particularly in semiconductors and key garments, said Joseph Incalcaterra, ASEAN’s chief economist at HSBC.
Incalcaterra told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday that Malaysia is a major producer of automotive semiconductors, which have been in short supply. Fortunately, more productive capacity in Malaysia is back online, the economist said.
“But if you look at Vietnam – which of course is a key producer of clothing, of different types of clothing especially in the south of the country – it’s going to have an impact for weeks and months to come,” Incalcaterra said.
Vietnam has closed its largest city and Ho Chi Minh City Mall, located in the south of the country. But the city could reopen economic activity in stages starting next week, reports Reuters.