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Malaysia’s convention centres at the forefront of pandemic battle

At least seven mega venues are now functioning as vaccination hubs, with a goal towards herd immunity and business recovery. 

A bird's eye view of the socially distanced vaccine participants at MITEC.
A bird's eye view of the socially distanced vaccine participants at MITEC.

As Malaysia eases into another nation-wide lockdown (from 01 June to 14 June), streets lay quiet and empty — except for select major convention centres where people are streaming in for their Covid-19 jabs.

There are at least seven such convention centres now doubling as vaccine dispensing centres (PPVs) as part of a national drive which first started at Sunway Pyramid Convention Centre (SPCC).

SPCC has led the way, vaccinating frontliners in March and then the general population in April under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NCIP).

In fact, the entire premise has been set aside rent-free for use as a PPV for 11 months ending in February 2022, with an estimated 1.8 million people expected to be vaccinated at the venue. In support of the NCIP, Sunway Group was set back some RM28 million (US$6.77 million) to cover cleaning and sanitisation costs, as well as a range of incentives including free parking, vouchers and freebies.

“It is my personal belief that no corporation can live apart from the community it serves," said Dr. Jeffrey Cheah, Sunway Group founder and chairman. "As such, we strongly believe in doing well by doing good. In line with these values, we have committed more than RM50 million since the lockdown was imposed. You have my pledge that we will continue to help the communities we serve and stand by them in their hour of need."

World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur as well as the Ideal Convention Centre Shah Alam in Selangorthen joined the call in early May for Phase 1 of the AstraZeneca vaccine opt-in programme.

The Malaysia International Trade & Exhibition Centre (MITEC), joined the NCIP on 30 May, starting off with an initial 2,600 doses per day. That same day, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, as well as Selangor's Setia City Convention Centre and the Mines Convention Centre announced their participation, starting on 7 June, following the success of the vaccination rollout at other convention centres.

Since then, Setia SPICE Convention Centre, Penang; Persada Johor International Convention Centre, Johor Baru; and Borneo Convention Centre Kuching have also joined the ranks.

Malaysia's medical centres are already taxed to the fullest, and this move by convention centres will ease the burden, said MACEOS president, Francis Teo.
Malaysia's medical centres are already taxed to the fullest, and this move by convention centres will ease the burden, said MACEOS president, Francis Teo.

Malaysian Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS) president, Francis Teo, said he is glad that convention centre members are playing a key part in the nation’s vaccination programme and that the move was something the association had been advocating to the government since early this year.

“We realise that we have a big opportunity here to support the government’s policy and help the nation to recover from this pandemic. The faster the population reaches herd immunity, the quicker the economy can recover and re-open for business,” he said, adding that this move will ease the burden on medical centres that are already taxed to the fullest.

According to Abdul Rahman Mamat, Prisma Galeri Sdn Bhd chairman, which manages MITEC in Kuala Lumpur — also the biggest convention centre in the country — it is important in these challenging times for the private and public sectors to come together to help the nation achieve herd immunity (set as 80% of the population) and flatten the curve.

Acting CEO, Mala Dorasamy, said that MITEC will manage the centre, while government officials will handle the operational and administrative support for vaccinations. MITEC staff involved in the programme are also being vaccinated.

“We will potentially increase from 5,000 to 8,000 doses per day. MITEC is also able to cater for individuals who are physically challenged,” she said, adding that MITEC will be using two multi-purpose function halls for the vaccination roll-out, as long as they are needed.

MACEOS' Teo also said he is hopeful the government will consider not only vaccinating convention centre staff, but all players in the business events industry as they are "frontliners for economic recovery".

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