KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 — The government is preparing for the high likelihood of additional Omicron infections in Malaysia, Khairy Jamaluddin said today, after authorities detected an imported case with the coronavirus variant.
The health minister pointed out that various countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, are reporting increasing cases of the variant of concern that is believed to be more transmissible than Delta.
“For Omicron, what this tells us is that the system works. We can capture it, if everyone sticks to the rules, we can contain,” he told a press conference today when announcing Malaysia’s first reported case of Omicron in a foreign student who arrived in Malaysia on November 19 from South Africa.
“But we also have to accept the possibility that there are already Omicron cases in Malaysia, as there are in other countries as well. What this demonstrates is that we picked up this case from the 19th of November, way earlier than [when] WHO (World Health Organization) announced Omicron to be a variant of concern.
“So, with that being the case, the message to the public is there’s a big likelihood that Omicron is in Malaysia, there are other cases, and we will increase genomic surveillance to be certain.”
When CodeBlue asked if he expected community spread of Omicron to be inevitable, like what had happened with the Delta variant, Khairy urged Malaysians not to panic as the government is still getting information on Omicron, such as its infectivity and severity of disease.
“Whether it’s an inevitability, we don’t know yet, we are watching other countries as well.”
Malaysia picked up the asymptomatic Omicron case — who had complied with home quarantine in Ipoh, Perak — after investigating positive Covid-19 samples taken from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) between November 11 and 28.
South Africa previously raised the alert about Omicron on November 24, before WHO classified the B.1.1.529 strain a variant of concern on November 26.
“It is possible that Omicron is already here, although the data surrounding this particular case suggests local transmission likely did not happen,” tweeted Dr Mahesh Appannan, head of data at the Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC).
“However, we at @KKMPutrajaya will leave no stone unturned – we do our homework, and we check it thrice.”
America has reported five Omicron cases in New York, one in Minnesota who had attended a convention in Manhattan late last month, and one case in California who had recently travelled to southern Africa. New cases of the Omicron variant have also been reported in Colorado and Hawaii.
The Guardian reported New York City mayor Bill de Blasio as saying that community spread in the city should be assumed.
FT reported that at least one Omicron case without international travel history has been found in England. So far, 29 Omicron cases have been reported in England and 13 in Scotland.
Omicron has been detected in at least 24 countries around the world to date.