KUALA LUMPUR, April 24 — Four more cases of the South African variant of the Covid-19 virus that were locally transmitted have been identified in Malaysia, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said today.
This is on top of 17 Covid-19 cases of the South African variant B.1.351 reported to the Health Ministry from January to March 2021, which brings the total of such cases in the country now to 21.
Of the four additional Covid-19 cases of the South African variant identified by the Institute of Medical Research through genomic surveillance from April 15 to April 23, three of them were reported in the Kuala Langat district in Selangor, while one of them was detected at the Hospital Tuanku Jaafar in Seremban, Negri Sembilan and is the first to be detected outside of Selangor, he said.
Previously, the 17 identified cases include nine cases that was detected as part of the Kluster Kebun Baru involving a factory and the Kuala Langat district in Selangor, four cases detected as part of the Kluster Jalan Lima involving a company at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and involving the Sepang and Hulu Langat districts in Selangor, one case under the Kluster Teknologi Emas involving a factory’s workers and the Kuala Langat district in Selangor, as well as three cases from close contact screening.
Of the four newly-identified cases, the source of one of them is still under investigation, while two are part of the Kluster Teknologi Emas and one is from close contact screening.
Dr Noor Hisham said the Health Ministry welcomes the announcement by senior minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on the government’s decision to impose tighter controls by lengthening the quarantine period from 10 days to 14 days for travellers from countries that had reported Covid-19 variants of concern transmissions in their communities.
He said this would reduce the risk of such Covid virus variants entering Malaysia, adding that further information on this would be immediately updated to ease the planning of travels for travellers.
Separately, Ismail Sabri had in a statement today noted that the World Health Organization had currently identified three Covid-19 variants that are variants of concern, namely the B.1.351 variant first reported in South Africa, the B.1.1.7 variant first reported in the UK and the B.1.1.28 or P1 first reported in Brazil and Japan.
Variants of concern are mutations of the Covid-19 virus that have features such as fast transmission, infections with severe symptoms and complications including an increase in warded cases and intensive care unit admissions and deaths, reduced effectiveness of protection through vaccination, or difficulty in detecting infections through certain laboratory tests, he said.
Noting that such Covid-19 variants of concern had started spreading globally, Ismail Sabri said the government will be taking precautionary steps to prevent the spread of new variants of concern in Malaysia, by imposing several requirements on travellers entering Malaysia from countries that had reported the spread of Covid-19 variants of concern in their community.
The precautionary steps include extending their quarantine period from the current 10 days to 14 days instead, as well as requiring them to undergo Covid-19 tests three days before departure, Ismail Sabri said.
The other standard operating procedures that are already in place for travellers entering Malaysia will continue to be practised, such as using the MySejahtera app, not leaving their rooms while under quarantine, self-monitoring of health for 14 days from the date of arrival and seeking treatment if they have symptoms, and carrying out a second Covid-19 test on the 10th day of quarantine.