More contagious South African Covid-19 variants detected in 7 cases in Kuching District

Graphic depicting the Covid-19 virus. Image credit: Pixabay, Creative Commons License

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KUCHING, May 20: Seven cases linked to the South African Covid-19 variants B.1.351, which is associated with immune-escape and more contagious, have been detected in Kuching District.

Following genomic surveillance on the SARS-COV-2 variants circulating in Sarawak conducted by the Institute of Health and Community Medicine (IHCM) headed by Prof Dr David Perera in Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) on over 600 samples, he reported that the earliest case sequenced was tested positive by RT-PCR on April 26.

“And the most recent case tested positive on May 6.

“We have also detected additional cases of the P3 VOI (variant of interest B. in Samarahan and Sibu.

“Additionally, we have detected a B.1.530 variant that appears to be dominant in Miri but also seen in Kuching,” he revealed in a statement today.

In the variant surveillance study, Dr Perera pointed out that they have identified a ‘Variant of Interest (VOI)’, the B. or P3 variant in the Kuching and Samarahan districts.

This variant, he shared, was first reported in the Philippines in March this year and was recently identified in import cases to the UK.

“This P3 variant is characterized by a double mutation; the E484K mutation shared with the B.1.351 South African variant and the N501Y mutation shared with the B.1.1.7 UK variant.

“These mutations have been associated with immune-escape from both vaccine-induced and natural infection protection, and greater transmissibility,” he cautioned.

Dr Perera also reminded that it was reported recently that the study has identified the B.1.470 and B.1.524 lineages as the circulating variants in the third wave (Sept – Nov, 2020) and lineages B.1.470, B.1.524 and B.1.466.2 as the circulating variants in the fourth wave (December 2020 onwards) in Sarawak.

“Notably, the B.1.466.2 variant is related to the ‘Pasai’ cluster in Sarawak and this variant shares a mutation with the UK B.1.1.7 variant at position 681 of the SARS-COV-2 Spike protein that is associated with increased transmissibility.

“Our data also shows that the B.1.466.2 ‘Pasai’ variant continues to circulate throughout the state,” he added.

With these new findings of SARS-COV-2 variants of concern/interest circulating in Sarawak, Dr Perera strongly emphasised the need for the public to continue adhering to the standard operating procedures (SOP) and guidelines, particularly mask-wearing, hand hygiene and physical distancing.

Stressing also on the need to achieve herd-immunity through the vaccination programme, he thus urged the public to register for vaccination. — DayakDaily