Health Ministry: At least 22 Covid-19 cases identified as ‘variants of concern’

PUTRAJAYA: Since February, the Health Ministry has detected at least 22 Covid-19 cases infected with variants originating from the United Kingdom, Nigeria and South Africa.

Read more here: Covid-19: 1,889 new cases bring total to 365,829

The three variants, which the ministry have categorised as “variants of concern” (VOC), are those that are said to be more contagious than usual - based on studies conducted worldwide.

“As of April 14, the Institute of Medical Research has conducted analysis on 273 whole genome sequences of the Covid-19 virus taken from clinical samples.

“About 145 genome sequences were conducted this year.

“Of that total, 22 cases (15.2%) were found to be of the VOC type, ” said Dr Noor Hisham in his daily Covid-19 statement.

The first VOC to be detected in Malaysia were the B.1.1.7 variant from the UK, which was found on Feb 3, following tests conducted on individuals arriving in the country.

Dr Noor Hisham said on March 5, the ministry discovered more cases at the country’s international gates - with two cases infected with the B.1525 variant from Nigeria discovered.

On March 18, the South African B.1.351 variant was found in samples taken from two infected employees of a company that is based at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

“To date, a total of 17 locally-transmitted positive cases have been identified to be infected with the South African variant B.1.351.

“Phylogenetic analysis and geographical correlations indicate that the cases are likely to have come from the same source of infection, ” said Dr Noor Hisham.

The cases, which are said to have contained the South African variant, were infections found to have links to the Jalan Lima, Kebun Baru and Teknologi Emas clusters in Selangor.

Dr Noor Hisham said most of the other samples tested were found to contain the B.1.524 variant - which is not classified as a VOC.

“The third wave that started in Sabah after the Benteng LD cluster involves variants that contain the D614G and A701V mutations.

“The most dominant lineage during the third wave is the B.1.524, which is found in the majority of samples tested, ” said Dr Noor Hisham.

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