THE detection of the latest Omicron Covid-19 variant in South Africa has sparked global concern, especially when this variant is reported to have an unusual number of mutations compared to the Delta variant and is capable of spreading rapidly with more than a thousand cases detected within a month.
Malaysians can breathe a sigh of relief when the Malaysian Health Ministry took swift action to impose travel restrictions from Malaysia to seven countries in Africa, namely South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
For now, Malaysia has yet to allow the entry of foreigners into our country, and this proves to be a good move given the detection of the new Omicron variant. Only Malaysians and permanent residents are allowed to return, and they are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine at a quarantine centre.
Clearly, the government today has learned from the mistakes of the Pakatan Harapan government which refused to implement restrictions and screening of tourists from China even though other countries had already begun doing so.
At the same time, we must not be complacent. This is because the Omicron variant has been detected in Australia as well as in several countries in Europe, proving that this variant has already begun to spread and is no longer confined to Africa. The first case in Australia is said to involve an African passenger from a Qatar Airways flight via Doha.
Therefore, the government should increase monitoring and screening at all entrances to the country. We should take a lesson from the Delta variant that slipped into our country and caused movement restrictions to be implemented.
Our country cannot go through another lockdown. Measures to increase security at the country's border gates will certainly give confidence to the people to continue their daily life activities while convincing foreign investors that the government today is serious about tackling this Covid-19 pandemic and resuscitating the country's economy.
The government's handling of this Omicron matter through the relevant ministries and agencies will instil public confidence in the Malaysian Family.
At the same time, we as citizens must also continue to play a role by adhering to the standard operating procedures (SOP). Through the government's efforts and coupled with the cooperation from all quartres, Malaysia will definitely be able to overcome this challenge.
Wong Siew Mun