Covid-19: Seven cases linked to South African variant detected in Sarawak

KUCHING: Seven cases of the South African Covid-19 variant (B.1.351) have been detected in Sarawak, according to Universiti Malaysia Sarawak's Institute of Health and Community Medicine (IHCM).

IHCM director Prof David Perera said all seven cases were detected in Kuching district.

"The earliest case we sequenced tested positive by RT-PCR on April 26 and the most recent case tested positive on May 6," he said in a statement on Thursday (May 20).

This is the first instance of the South African variant of concern being reported in Sarawak.

Prof Perera also said IHCM had detected additional cases of the P3 variant of interest in Samarahan and Sibu.

The P3 or B. variant, which was first reported in the Philippines in March this year, is characterised by a double mutation shared with the South African and UK (B.1.1.7) variants.

"These mutations have been associated with immune escape from both vaccine-induced and natural infection protection, and greater transmissibility," Prof Perera said.

In addition, he said IHCM had detected a B.1.530 variant, which appeared to be dominant in Miri but was also seen in Kuching.

Further, IHCM's data showed that the B.1.466.2 Pasai variant, related to the Pasai cluster which broke out in Sarawak early this year, continued to circulate throughout the state.

"This variant shares a mutation with the UK B.1.1.7 variant that is associated with increased transmissibility," he said.

With these new findings of variants of concern and interest circulating in the state, Prof Perera said it was important for the public to continue adhering to the standard operating procedures, especially wearing masks, practising hand hygiene and observing physical distancing.

He also emphasised the need to achieve herd immunity through vaccination and urged the public to register for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.

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