LANGKAWI, 20 July 2021: A mass vaccination project gets underway in Langkawi that is part of a plan that could see the island pilot the country’s “Covid-19 Free Destination Programme” that would ultimately allow tourists to return to the island on safe holiday packages.

In supporting the acceleration of the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out, The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia (MOTAC) has outlined its  National Recovery Plan (NRP).

It starts with the government accelerating vaccinations for residents of Langkawi. The programme has turned Langkawi Craft Complex into a public vaccination centre (PPV) earlier this month as the vaccination drive rolls out.

Authorities in Kedah state believe Langkawi island could be ready to reopen to the first groups of tourists, possibly in September.

To succeed, the island has set a goal of vaccinating 80% of its population. Rules governing entry for international tourists are under constant review due to the twists and turns of the Covid19 pandemic as new variants emerge, but it is understood the island could reopen to fully vaccinated tourists. Unvaccinated travellers or those jabbed with just one dose, would not be permitted to enter the island. In Malaysia, the authorised vaccines are Pfizer/BioNTech, CanSino, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Oxford/AstraZeneca, and Sinovac.

The ministry is also planning to include Kuching, the capital city of Sarawak state, in the Covid-19 Free Destination Programme and incorporate Malaysia’s best islands for holidays such as Redang, Perhentian, Pangkor and Tioman in the second phase.

Meanwhile, Malaysia currently remains under the nationwide lockdown of the first phase of NRP, a four-phase COVID-19 exit plan that will likely see a full reopening of economic and social activities, including the tourism industry, by the end of this year.

To ease the lockdown measure to a second phase, Covid-19 daily cases in Malaysia need to drop below 4,000 with 10% of its population has to be fully vaccinated, and the intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy rates in hospitals need to return to a moderate level.

Meanwhile, the country’s Prime Minister Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Mahiaddin Bin Haji Md Yasin has recently unveiled the latest MYR150 billion aid package named PakejPerlindungan Rakyat dan PemulihanEkonomi (Pemulih), which includes MYR10 billion direct fiscal injections by the government to tide Malaysians over the nationwide lockdown.

The Pemulih package is targeted at assisting households and businesses affected by the pandemic in the form of cash aids, loan moratoriums, tax breaks, grants, wage subsidies and unemployment assistance.

Besides, an additional MYR400 million would be allocated by the government to buy more vaccines to ensure the country’s population is covered while extending inoculations to 6.4 million youths age 12 to 18.

Around 30% of Malaysia’s population have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine (Total: 9,570,974), while 13.9%% have received two doses (Total: 4,431,350).

Malaysia recorded 10,710 new cases totalling 916,561 cases nationwide as of 18 July. Fatalities reached 7,019.

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