With Covid-19 cases on the rise again, the Malaysian Health Ministry rightly proposed that interstate travel be postponed for Hari Raya, choosing to prevent sparking a fourth wave of infections rather than give in to fears of a political backlash for not allowing those celebrating Hari Raya to return to their hometown for a second year running.
Still, a lot more needs to be done better and faster so that Malaysia can win the battle against Covid-19.
The government has said it does not want to impose a third round of Movement Control Order, a blow that many small businesses may not be able to withstand and which could lead to the loss of more jobs.
Yet, the vaccination rate is still far from a level where Malaysians can let down their guard. As at April 15, only 434,301 individuals had been fully vaccinated, while 671,589 had received their first dose.
The 8.83 million who have registered for the vaccination — more than the supply of vaccines that have been received so far — are only one third of the 25.6 million, or 80% of the population of 32 million, that need to be inoculated to achieve herd immunity by year-end.
Is it a matter of getting people registered? Or do we need to raise awareness and acceptance of vaccines?
If registrations do not rise significantly soon, Malaysia may have more supply of vaccines than people willing to be vaccinated as early as June, if not October, when enough doses to inoculate 80% of the population are expected.
This would not only delay herd immunity but the reopening of borders and the recovery of sectors that are dependent on that. Without herd immunity, another wave of infections sapping recovery will be an ever-present threat — something no country can afford.