KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) today reported three new Covid-19 cases with the B.1.617.2 variant first found in India, including the first locally transmitted infection in Malaysia.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said two of the coronavirus cases with the B.1.617.2 variant were detected from the country’s international gates, while the third was identified through symptomatic screening. All three were non-nationals and previously travelled to India.
“This leads to a total of five cases with the Indian B.1.617 variant (including the B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.2 sub-lineages) detected in the country,” Dr Noor Hisham said in a statement today.
He did not specify which state the locally transmitted Covid-19 case with the Indian variant was detected in from a symptomatic screening. The previously announced coronavirus case with the Indian variant had tested negative for Covid-19 at the border upon arriving in Malaysia on April 7, based on two tests done on April 7 and 12. The foreigner only tested positive on April 21 when he was brought to hospital and later died on May 1.
The emergence of Covid-19 variants in Malaysia, including the B.1.617.2 variant first detected in India, comes amid a surge of coronavirus cases, including severe infections among younger adults, that is filling up intensive care units across multiple states.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty reportedly said the Indian B.1.617.2 variant was expected to become the most dominant in the United Kingdom, surpassing the UK’s Kent B.1.1.7 variant. Sky News reported UK government scientific advisers as saying that there is a “realistic possibility” that the variant from India could be “50 per cent more transmissible” than the variant emerging from Kent.
“MOH wishes to announce that the Malaysian government has extended the 14-day mandatory quarantine from countries with VOC (variant of concern) transmission in the community since April 28, 2021, and has barred the entry of non-national travellers from India since May 7, 2021, following the increasingly concerning transmission of VOC,” Dr Noor Hisham said.
He added that four new local Covid-19 cases with the B.1.351 variant, first detected in South Africa, were found in Kuala Lumpur from close contact and symptomatic screening, leading to a total of 66 cases with the South African variant.
The four new cases with the South African variant plus the three new cases with the Indian variant were reported following the Institute for Medical Research’s (IMR) genomic surveillance on 10 Covid-19 samples from May 10 to 14.
MOH today reported 45 new Covid-19 fatalities in the past 24 hours, breaking the previous daily record high of 44 deaths two days ago. Malaysia’s cumulative Covid-19 death toll has now reached 1,947 fatalities.
The 45 Covid-19 victims included three brought-in-dead cases — one each in Ipoh, Perak; Banting, Selangor; and Jempol, Negeri Sembilan. The 45 coronavirus-related deaths involved people aged between 39 and 90 years old.
The victims comprised 21 women and 24 men. Selangor reported the highest number of Covid-19 deaths in the country today with 20 fatalities, followed by four deaths each in Kelantan and Kuala Lumpur, three deaths each in Kedah, Perak, and Johor, two deaths each in Negeri Sembilan and Melaka, and one fatality each in Pahang, Penang, Sarawak, and Sabah.
Health authorities reported 4,446 new coronavirus infections today, pushing active cases to 43,506. A total of 522 Covid-19 patients are being treated in the intensive care unit (ICU), as well as 273 on ventilator support.