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Temporary entry ban on foreign travelers due to discovery of heavily mutated Covid-19 variant

A temporary entry ban on foreigners without permanent resident (PR) status or working visas will be enforced following the discovery of a heavily mutated variant B.1.1.529 in South Africa.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the temporary move would take effect tomorrow.

“We view this seriously and will carry out genomic surveillance, including on individuals arriving from the countries reported with the new variant cases.

“Based on genomic surveillance, as of Feb 26, no new variant was reported in Malaysia,” he said in a press conference today.

However, Khairy said preventive steps needed to be taken as precautionary measures. He said foreigners would not be allowed to enter the country until the temporary measures were reviewed.

Other measures included prohibiting Malaysians from visiting southern African countries, including Gauteng province and Botswana, where new variant cases have been detected, and the Immigration Department has been informed of the measures, he said.

Meanwhile, Malaysians and foreigners with PR status would be allowed to enter the country, but subject to 14-day mandatory quarantine at designated stations regardless of their vaccination status.

Scientists have described the heavily mutated variant, named B.1.1.529 by the World Health Organisation (WHO), as an “unusual constellation of mutations” and that it was “very different” to other variants that have circulated.

Confirmed cases have been detected in Gauteng province in South Africa, four cases in Botswana and one in Hong Kong.

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