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Malaysia reports first case of Indian variant COVID-19

Healthcare workers collect swab samples from humans at the Coronavirus Disease Test Center (COVID-19) in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, January 25, 2021. REUTERS / Lim Huey Teng

Malaysia has unveiled its first case of a highly infectious variant of the coronavirus, first identified in India, Health Minister Adam Baba said on Sunday, days after a flight ban from India was imposed.

The variant, called B.1.617, was found on an Indian citizen screened at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, he said.

The World Health Organization has described it as a “variant of interest”, suggesting that there may be mutations that could make the virus more transmissible, cause more serious diseases or avoid immunity to vaccines. Read more

“We advise the public to remain calm … All public health efforts will continue to break the chain of infection and ensure public safety,” Adam said.

He did not say when the option was discovered.

Malaysia, which is facing an increase in COVID-19 cases, banned flights to and from India on Wednesday and banned passengers from any Indian destination from entering the country to prevent the new version from spreading.

India is battling a devastating second wave of coronavirus that has gripped hospitals, morgues and crematoria. Read more

In February, Malaysia launched a national vaccination program against COVID-19, aimed at inoculating 80% of its 32 million people within a year.

The Southeast Asian country reported 3,418 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, resulting in a total of 415,012 infections, including more than 1,500 deaths.

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