Malaysia Covid-19 Sequencing Second Lowest Globally Past Month

Malaysia shared only 67 genomic sequences with GISAID in the last 30 days as of Dec 2, or 0.04% of 161,140 Covid-19 cases, ahead of Russia’s 0.01% that is lowest in the world.

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 2 — Malaysia sequenced and shared with the global GISAID database only 0.04 per cent of Covid-19 cases in the last 30 days, the second smallest proportion in the world ahead of Russia.

According to GISAID, which is an open database used globally to share data on genomic sequences of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19, Malaysia shared only 67 sequences in the last 30 days as of today out of 161,140 reported coronavirus cases. Malaysia’s most recent submission to GISAID was made one day ago.

In terms of absolute numbers of Covid-19 genomic sequences shared over the last 30 days, Malaysia came in 28th lowest globally with 67 sequences.

Over the past month, Denmark sequenced and shared 30,028 sequences, or 30 per cent of its 99,618 Covid-19 cases, the second biggest proportion globally behind Bahrain’s 32 per cent of 861 cases with 278 sequences.

In the last 90 days, Malaysia only sequenced and shared 0.2 per cent of 867,766 Covid-19 cases, the 26th smallest proportion globally, with 1,996 sequences. 

This means, on average, Malaysia only sequenced and shared some 665 samples a month in the past three months, less than half of Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s recent claim that the country was sequencing about 1,500 samples monthly. 

Malaysia’s extremely low rate of genomic surveillance for Covid-19 to detect variants comes as the government is undertaking daily reviews of travel restrictions, amid the global spread of the new Omicron variant of concern.

As of yesterday, eight southern African countries have been placed on Malaysia’s red list that denies the entry of foreigners travelling from the listed countries, besides prohibiting Malaysian citizens from visiting those countries. 

The Ministry of Health’s (MOH) decision to place countries on Malaysia’s list of travel bans is based on local transmissions of Omicron, the number of Covid-19 cases, and vaccination coverage.   

To date, 25 countries across Africa, Europe, North America, and Asia have reported infections of Omicron that is feared to be more transmissible than the Delta variant, including one case in the United States, 22 in the United Kingdom, seven in Australia, five in South Korea, four in Hong Kong, and two in Japan.

Genomic sequencing of Covid-19 in ASEAN, ordered from the lowest percentage of cases sequenced and shared with GISAID, in the last 30 days as of December 2, 2021. Picture from GISAID database.

Among the five ASEAN countries that shared genomic sequences of Covid-19 with GISAID in the last 30 days, Malaysia’s 0.042 per cent sequencing proportion of 161,140 cases was slightly lower than Thailand’s 0.049 per cent proportion. 

Indonesia sequenced 0.56 per cent of its 11,926 Covid-19 cases the past month, exceeded by Singapore (1.28 per cent) and Cambodia (12.16 per cent).

In the last 30 days, Malaysia and Indonesia shared 67 sequences each, exceeded by Thailand (98), Cambodia (196), and Singapore (850).

Overall, since January 10 last year, Malaysia has sequenced and shared just 0.2 per cent of Covid-19 cases, or 5,686 sequences of some 2.6 million reported coronavirus cases, fourth smallest proportion in ASEAN behind Myanmar (0.009 per cent), Laos (0.024 per cent), and Vietnam (0.122 per cent).

Thailand, in contrast, has sequenced and shared 0.4 per cent of Covid-19 cases since January 10 last year with 8,355 sequences, exceeding Malaysia’s 5,686 sequences even as Thailand reported a smaller case load with 2.1 million reported Covid-19 cases.

Singapore’s genomic surveillance proportion of Covid-19 cases topped the region at 3.8 per cent of nearly 265,000 cases sequenced and shared since January 10, 2020, with 10,151 sequences.

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