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Malaysia's tightened border measures for all international arrivals: Temperature checks compulsory as of Jan 2023

Malaysia's tightened border measures for all international arrivals: Temperature checks compulsory as of Jan 2023


Locally, walk-in vaccinations for high-risk groups will begin on 9 January 2023, among other measures implemented nationwide.

Taking into account the risk of the influx of cases of COVID-19 as travel picks up, Malaysia's Ministry of Health (KKM) has announced that it will be strengthening its preparedness and response to control the situation in the country.   

As shared in a statement by Health Minister Dr. Zaliha Mustafa, this will take place through four main strategies:

Strengthening the surveillance of COVID-19 in the community, environment, and laboratories

Further tests will be carried out on positive samples of COVID-19 using the whole genomic sequencing (WGS) technique, to detect the early entry of new variants in the country. At the same, surveillance of samples for cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) at 59 sentinel clinics and severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) at 18 sentinel hospitals across the country is still ongoing. For this purpose, ILI samples are sent to public health laboratories throughout the country, while SARI samples are sent to the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) for PCR testing and then genome sequencing (WGS) is carried out if positive for COVID-19.

In order to improve the detection of any new variants, all cases of ILI and SARI who seek services at a health facility and have a history of travel to China in the last 14 days, or have a history of contact with individuals with a history of travel to China in the last 14 days, will have to undergo a rapid antigen COVID-19 test. The samples will then be sent for genome sequencing if the individual is found positive for COVID-19.

In addition, surveillance at international entry points (PMA) in Malaysia has also been strengthened:

  • Sewage water samples from aircraft arriving from China will be sent to the National Public Health Laboratory (MKAK) for PCR testing, and subsequently sent for genome sequencing if detected positive for COVID-19.
  • All travellers arriving from abroad, including China, will undergo screening for fever. Those found to have a fever, or who have self-declared any symptoms, will be referred to a quarantine centre or the health department for re-examination. If the traveller is suspected to have COVID-19, a COVID-19 test will be conducted.

Protecting the community through vaccination, including vulnerable and high-risk groups

(i) COVID-19 vaccine

Per KKM's statement, a total of 27,531,220 individuals, or 84.3% of the Malaysian population, have received a complete primary dose vaccination as of 28 December 2022. However, only 16,278,036 people (49.8%) of those have received the first booster dose, and 626,896 people (1.9%) received the second booster dose.

In order to encourage the uptake of vaccines among high-risk groups, KKM is offering walk-in vaccinations at health clinics and KKM hospitals starting 9 January 2023 (per each clinic's operating hours) to the following groups:

  1. Cases with comorbidities including chronic diseases; 
  2. Senior citizens aged 60 years and above, or
  3. Individuals at risk of severe symptoms and infection complications from COVID-19.

Those who have not received either the primary or booster dose may make an appointment through MySejahtera or call a nearby health clinic.

ii) Provision of Paxlovid antiviral drug treatment to eligible patients

The antiviral treatment by Paxlovid is also being provided to COVID-19 patients according to established guidelines. For this purpose, KKM is ensuring the availability of antivirals in all health facilities recognised by the ministry.

Improving the preparedness of public health services

As part of this strategy, the health ministry has enhanced the management of COVID-19 through digitisation, with an automated FTTIS (find, test, trace, isolate, and support) approach. Through this approach, individuals who undergo self-detection for COVID-19 can report their test results on the MySejahtera application, in addition to performing the test at a health facility.

The test results will immediately be updated in the user's MySejahtera application. Positive cases will be given a Home Surveillance Order (HSO) and a Release Order (RO) digitally, and there is no need to be physically present at the District Health Office or the COVID-19 Assessment Centre (CAC).

In addition, KKM will ensure that the CAC operates both physically and virtually. 

Empowering the community through continuous engagement and advocacy

Last, the ministry has expanded advocacy activities and risk communication related to COVID-19, including vaccination and treatment, to all levels of society. Advocacy and health education materials can be obtained from the KKM website, as well as KKM press releases that will be issued from time to time.

Next, KKM has mobilised the MyCHAMPION (Malaysian Health Community Agent) through the Malaysia Sihat National Agenda (Agenda Nasional Malaysia Sihat, or ANMS) initiative to empower health self-control in taking preventive measures, assessing personal health status, ensuring compliance with treatment, and adopting new norms that can help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Further, the declaration of Malaysia as an "Infectious Endemic Area" which was set to expire on 31 December 2022, has been extended to 30 June 2023 to facilitate activities to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 infection. This extension was gazetted on 27 December 2022, through the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Declaration of Infectious Local Areas) (Extension of Force) (No.2) 2022 [P.U. (A) 397/2022].

In addition to the above, the ministry continues to recommend the practice of TRIIS. For individuals at high risk of COVID-19, including individuals with comorbidities, face masks are highly recommended especially in crowded areas or places, such as large gatherings. Those with symptoms are also encouraged to wear a face mask and carry out a self-test for COVID-19.

KKM will continue to monitor the development of the incidence of COVID-19 within and outside the country and work closely with the WHO, China, and ASEAN countries to ensure that appropriate prevention and control measures are implemented continuously.

The above update comes as KKM continues to monitor the current development of the COVID-19 infection situation at an international level, following updates by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In the statement, Dr. Zaliha cited WHO's weekly COVID-19 situation report, in which a total of 148,659 positive cases of COVID-19 with 442 deaths were reported in China between 11 to 17 December 2022. Overall, the reporting trend of COVID-19 cases is under control in most countries around the world including Malaysia.

As of 24 December 2022, the majority of SARS-CoV-2 variants detected in Malaysia were the Omicron variant (66.17%), followed by the Delta variant (32.69%), Beta (1.06%), and Alpha (0.08%). Of the cumulative Omicron variants detected, 61.6% were subvariants BA.5.2 and 10.8% were subvariants XBB.1 and three cases of subvariants BF.7. However, there was no sudden increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. 

Lead photo / Shutterstock

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