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Malaysia reports first case of Indian COVID-19 variant

Medical workers collect graft samples from humans at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test center in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia January 25, 2021. REUTERS / Lim Huey Teng

Malaysia has unveiled its first case of a highly infectious coronavirus variant first identified in India, Health Minister Adham Baba said on Sunday, days after imposing a ban on flights from India.

The variant, named B.1.617, was discovered in an Indian citizen who was screened at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, he said.

The World Health Organization has described it as a “variant of interest”, suggesting that it may have mutations that would make the virus more transmissible, cause more serious illness or avoid vaccine immunity. Read more

“We advise the public to remain calm … All public health efforts will continue to break the chain of infection and ensure public safety,” Adham said.

He did not say when the variant was discovered.

Malaysia, facing a rise in COVID-19 cases, on Wednesday banned flights to and from India and banned travelers from any Indian destination from entering the country to prevent the spread of the new variant.

India is battling a devastating second wave of coronavirus that has overwhelmed hospitals, morgues and crematoria. Read more

In February, Malaysia launched a nationwide vaccination program COVID-19, which aims to inoculate 80% of its 32 million people within a year.

The Southeast Asian country reported 3,418 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, bringing the total number of infections to 415,012 cases, including more than 1,500 deaths.

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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