KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 — The highly-infectious variant of the coronavirus behind Covid-19 has been detected here, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said today.
He said the variant dubbed “UK B.1.1.7” was identified from a sample taken from a traveller who had been to the UK in December 2020.
“The traveller tested positive on December 28, 2020 and has been isolated for further treatment,” Dr Noor Hisham said in a statement.
The Health D-G said the ministry has been monitoring arrivals from countries that have reported the presence of the UK-variant, such as the Netherlands, Singapore, Turkey, the Philippines and India in addition to the UK itself.
Health authorities here have collected 968 such samples for genome sequencing that has been performed on 24, he said.
However, Dr Noor Hisham said that no local transmission of the variant has yet been identified in Malaysia.
“While the UK B.18.104.22.168 mutation does not result in severe symptoms, it can spread easily and quickly,” he explained.
The variant was first identified in the UK last September and has alarmed health authorities worldwide due to its fast-spreading nature.
It has been estimated to be as much as 70 per cent more infectious than other previously identified variants.
The spread led neighbouring Europe to close borders with the UK in an attempt to prevent the variant from jumping over to the continent.
While it was initially feared that the variant could negate to rush vaccines against Covid-19, the World Health Organization has said it was similar to enough to existing variants that vaccines will be effective against it.