Experts: Be on alert no matter what

PETALING JAYA: The newly emerged Lambda variant comes as unwelcome news as the world continues to grapple with the Delta variant, but health experts said that we should remain on our guard no matter what the variant.

Malaysian Society of Allergy and Immunology president Prof Dr Baharudin Abdullah said the Covid-19 virus, like other viruses, undergoes mutations constantly in response to its environment.

“Multiple variants of Covid-19 are concerning but it should not be a reason for us to panic. We should always be on our guard no matter what variants we are facing,” he said.

He said the most concerning variant currently is the Delta variant due to possible links to high transmissibility and disease severity. “However, although both variants are deadlier, there is no evidence to support that their transmissibility cannot be stopped by the standard operating procedure advised by experts,” said Prof Baharudin.

“The currently available vaccines are adequate to protect our population. The report of emerging variants should be anticipated and we should always be prepared for countermeasures in handling it.”

The Health Ministry in Malaysia has cautioned that the Lambda variant may be more dangerous than the Delta variant.

To date, however, Malaysia has yet to detect a case with the Lambda variant.

Universiti Putra Malaysia medical epidemiologist Assoc Prof Dr Malina Osman said the Lambda strain has been in Peru for a while, and it might have been linked to the high number of deaths.

“However, the number of deaths in any country depends on many factors, such as the time of diagnosis, the healthcare system, underlying comorbidities – so it is not solely because of the type of variant.

“Epidemiologically, it is difficult to conclude if the strain has caused more deaths compared to other variants.

“In Peru, the situation is better now, with the number of new cases and death on the declining trend,” she said.

First found in Peru in December, the Lambda variant initially only accounted for one in every 200 samples there.

It now accounts for at least 82% of new Covid-19 cases in the past two months in Peru, suggesting high transmissibility.

Though a link has not been established, Peru currently has the world’s highest Covid-19 case fatality rate, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus resource centre. Peru has a 9.4% mortality rate compared to Malaysia’s 0.7%.

Also known as C.37, the variant is currently classified as a “variant of interest” and has been detected in more than 30 countries in the past four weeks.

The jury is still out on whether the mutations seen in the Lambda strain make it more transmissible or aggressive.

The World Health Organisation has designated Lambda a “variant of interest” for now, which is believed to be less of a threat compared to the four “variants of concern” (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta).

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