KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 — Malaysia’s dire Covid-19 situation may worsen further as at least one variant of concern (VOC) could have spread to all states in the country, the Health Ministry said today.

VOC are variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes Covid-19, of which there are five that have been flagged by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The variants are causing alarm as they are more infectious than the wild type SARS-CoV-2, could cause more severe symptoms in younger patients, and could be more difficult to detect.

“The Health Ministry does not reject the possibility that there has already been a wider spread of at least one variant of concern within the communities of all Malaysian states.

“Considering that VOCs have been found to have a higher infectivity rate, all individuals must take the situation seriously,” the ministry said on Twitter today.

Recently, the ministry also began recommending the practice of “double-masking” as a safety precaution, in light of the discovery that some Covid-19 transmissions could be airborne.

Malaysia started a two-week “total lockdown” today as part of the government's three-phase plan to contain the latest surge in Covid-19 infections.

The country has been reporting new daily cases in the upper four-digit range for most of May, pushing the public health system to its limit to treat Covid-19 cases, especially those requiring intensive care.