PUTRAJAYA (Bernama): The Health Ministry (MOH) has called for stricter border control, including implementing risk assessments on individuals returning from abroad, to prevent the Lambda variant from spreading into the country.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said so far, MOH has not detected cases involving the Lambda variant in the country, adding that the ministry would further enhance its capability by running the full genomic sequence to detect the emergence of any Variants of Concern (VOCs).
He said many more mutations would occur, adding that mutations would emerge when there were infections that would cause the virus to enter and multiply in the lungs.
"The mutations that have been identified so far are Lambda, Epsilon and so on. Our concern is that these mutations are resistant to the vaccines that we are using. So far, Alhamdulillah, the vaccines that we are using are still effective against the Delta variant," he said during a press conference on the Covid-19 development on Friday (Aug 13).
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, Health deputy director-general (Public Health) Datuk Dr Chong Chee Keong, MOH secretary-general Datuk Mohd Shafiq Abdullah and Selangor Health Department director Datuk Dr Sha'ari Ngadiman were also present at the press conference.
When asked about the ministry’s preparedness to fight against the Lambda variant, which has been recently found in Japan for the first time, Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry would conduct risk assessments on individuals returning from abroad and ensure they undergo the 14-day mandatory quarantine.
"We will conduct a risk assessment before allowing them into the community," he said.
On the vaccines used in the country to fight against the virus, he said the vaccines had been effective in tackling the Delta variant, proved by the decrease in the number of hospital admissions and deaths in Labuan and Sarawak.
He said in Labuan, the ministry managed to control the spread of the virus infection involving the Delta variant with Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac vaccines.
"Similarly in Sarawak, Unimas (Universiti Malaysia Sarawak) conducted a full genomic sequence confirming (the cases) involving the Delta variant but the Sinovac vaccine that we use has effectively decreased hospital admissions, ICU (intensive care unit) admissions cases, the need to use respiratory aid as well as reduced the number of deaths,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham said vaccination against the virus, public health action and community adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs) were important to break the chain of Covid-19 infection in the country.
"To Malaysians, please stay at home and if you have to leave the house, abide by all the SOPs prescribed by MOH, wear face masks, maintain physical distance, avoid crowded and cramped places.
He reminded Malaysians that the country managed to lower Covid-19 cases last year without vaccination by remaining at home and complying with the SOPs.
"This was our method to break the infection chain then and now we have added vaccination, so using these methods we can (once again) break the Covid-19 transmission,” he said.
He said Malaysia should learn from countries that had previously managed to control the spread of Covid-19 by vaccinating up to 85% of their population, however, easing the restrictions on the SOPs had caused the Covid-19 cases to re-escalate involving the Delta variant.
"So, we have to learn from these countries and practise both methods, namely public health and vaccination," he added. - Bernama