Malaysians banned from visiting several African countries after new Covid-19 variant emerges

Graphics depicting variants of the Covid-19 virus.

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KUCHING, Nov 26: Malaysians are banned from visiting several African countries as the Federal government stepped up precautions in the wake of the emergence of the new B.1.1.529 Covid-19 variant which has doubled the number of mutations from the Delta variant.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin in a press conference today, said that the countries added to Malaysia’s red list include South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The temporary travel ban takes effect from tomorrow (Nov 27).

“All foreigners with travel history to these South African countries within the last 14 days will also be temporarily barred from entering Malaysia.

“All Malaysia citizens and permanent residents returning to Malaysia from the South African countries will need to undergo compulsory quarantine for 14 days at designated centres regardless of their vaccination status and they are not allowed to undergo quarantine at home.

“Samples will be taken from the returning travellers for genomic sequencing,” he added.

While the new variant has not been found in Malaysia, Khairy however emphasised the MOH looks seriously into the emergence of this new variant and will enhance genomic surveillance, including on individuals arriving from countries that reported this new variant.

“Ongoing monitoring of genomic surveillance is carried out by a consortium consisting of MOH through the Institute of Medical Research (IMR), Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) and Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE),” he said.

The new Covid-19 variant was first discovered in Botswana on Nov 11 and was later reported in South Africa on Nov 14 and Hong Kong on Nov 25.

Khairy said the Ministry of Health (MOH) will closely monitor the development of the new variant within and outside the country including reports from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to reports, the latest variant is the most heavily mutated version discovered so far with 32 mutations in the spike protein and red-flagged by health experts as highly transmissible and effective at evading the body’s immune response.

“At present, there is no further information on the incubation period, the symptoms and infectivity rate.

“The WHO is closely monitoring the development of the new variant and it has been categorised as Variant Under Monitoring (VUM),” he added. — DayakDaily