KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — Malaysia will temporarily deny entry to travellers from countries with confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, said Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
The minister said 18 countries have so far reported cases of the new variant of concern that were imported.
Global health authorities have expressed concern over the Omicron variant whose high number of mutations could allow it to evade existing immunity to Covid-19.
No cases of the variant have been reported in Malaysia yet.
“This variant can spread much faster than previous variants. It has already demonstrated a high probability that it is more transmissible,” Khairy said when noting that this could put immunocompromised groups at high risk.
Khairy said the Health Ministry has consequently decided to impose temporary travel restrictions on non-citizens entering Malaysia from countries considered to be at high-risk of Omicron spread or those who have been to the same countries 14 days prior.
The affected countries were South Africa, Botswana, Eswathini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.
The restriction will also apply to migrant workers as well as international students from the affected countries.
The minister said the list would be updated regularly and countries added or removed as needed.
He said that while Malaysian citizens, permanent residents and long-term passholders were not barred, they would be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine on arrival.
Aside from the eight above, other countries with confirmed cases of Omicron include the Netherlands, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong SAR, Italy, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Spain, France, Israel, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, and Japan.
Khairy also said plans to introduce vaccinated travel lanes with countries afflicted with Omicron would be put on hold.
Additionally, the minister said the use of the autogate system for Malaysian passport holders has been suspended temporarily with immediate effect.
All flights from countries with reported Omicron cases have also been restricted to landing only at the KLIA airport where special screening measures will be implemented, he added.
*Editor’s note: The report has been amended to clarify that the travel restrictions only apply to the eight African countries and not all countries with confirmed cases of Omicron.