Malaysia is now tightening its borders again to prevent visitors from other countries to bring in the new Covid-19 variant Omicron, which is said to be more contagious than the Delta variant.
According to Malay Mail, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, who is in charge of security said the government has decided to put on hold the country’s transition to endemic phase until more information on the SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern is available before they decide on whether to relax or tighten the SOPs.
“Countries like South Africa, Italy, Denmark, Australia, United Kingdom, Belgium and Hong Kong have all recorded cases of Omicron variant. As such, SOPs for states in Phase 3 and 4 will remain for the time being.”
“We’ve also decided to pause our efforts to move into the endemic stage until we know more about the VOC (Varian of Concern) Omicron.” he said.
Hishammuddin said that Malaysia has not recorded any such cases in our country as of now, but precautionary actions will be taken.
“We are concerned that everything that we had planned before this, the announcements on the relaxation of SOPs (standard operating procedures), the 7 criteria that we hoped to announce in the near future on the endemic phase, all this may be affected if we do not monitor the spread of Omicron more closely.” he said, reported The Edge.
The 7 criteria includes the number of beds being utilised in hospitals, intensive care units (ICUs) and Covid-19 Low-Risk Quarantine and Treatment Centres (PKRCs); testing capacity at laboratories and the rate of Covid-19 positive cases.
Omicron was first detected in South Africa on 24 November and health authorities worldwide had expressed concern over its high number of mutations that could lead it to evade existing immunity.
On Monday (29 November), Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said Malaysians must maintain measures to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection while researchers assess the dangers of the new Omicron variant.
While it is still not yet known how severe the Omicron-variant infections could be, researchers has found that it was outcompeting the already-infectious Delta to become the dominant variant in parts of South Africa.
On November 27, Malaysia had already banned visitors from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe from entering Malaysia.
As for Malaysians and permanent residents who want to return to Malaysia from these countries, they are required to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine period at a government facility.
Following the discovery of the new variant, countries around the world have begun closing their borders to travellers from South Africa as a precaution. However, a number of cases of Omicron infections have already been detected in parts of Asia, Europe and North America.
Hence, it is still best for us to remain vigilant and to comply with the SOPs recommended by the Health Ministry. Stay safe!