With the rapid rollout of averaging half a million vaccinations per day, the vaccination rate in Malaysia rose to 68.8% of the adult population earlier this month, bringing the country closer to herd immunity.
The region with the highest number of vaccines occurred in the Klang Valley, where 6.94 million people, or 82% of the total population, received the first dose. About 71% of the population has received multiple vaccinations.
According to the national COVID-19 vaccination program launched on February 24, Malaysia aims to achieve herd immunity by the fourth quarter of 2021.
We are moving into the fourth phase of the plan, which is expected to reopen business and travel between regions and between states.
Although the incidence of infection and hospitalization remains high, hospital admissions are mostly for those who have not been vaccinated.
But there has also been success with the delta option for vaccinated people. The increase in cases in countries with high vaccination rates raises doubts about the zero-case approach.
The economic costs of blocking COVID-19 and wiping out populations have resulted in a shift in the attitudes of some Southeast Asian countries that view COVID-19 as endemic.
While it is not yet clear when tourism will target ASEAN countries, short-term regional travel will start before medium-term international travel as the COVID-19 situation improves between countries.
Travelers want security and flexibility in their travel arrangements that protect their bookings from last minute changes in travel policies and restrictions.
Tourism organizations should focus their initial marketing efforts on promoting domestic travel and encouraging Malaysians to explore nearby destinations.
National and local officials should not overlook the importance of focusing on protecting the environment and improving the quality and experience of ecotourism destinations, as well as seaside and island resorts.
In the face of financial constraints, people are tempted to overestimate the value of money through moral considerations.
But we must not overlook the importance of sustainability, which has become an essential part of the journey.
There should be close coordination between governments at the international level and between governments and the private sector to lift travel restrictions and facilitate cross-border traffic.
Travel destinations need to ensure that all arriving passengers have been tested for health and vaccinated to avoid imported COVID cases.
Some form of mutually accepted digital health certification will be needed to allow people at home and abroad to travel undisturbed and to allow governments to reopen borders without quarantine requirements.