Malaysia detects nine cases of South African Covid-19 variant

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) – Malaysia has detected nine cases of a highly contagious Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa, a senior health official said on Thursday (April 1).

The variant, also known as B1351, was found among locally transmitted cases between January and March, director-general of health Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement.

Two of the cases involved workers from a firm based at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, he said.

“However, it is difficult to determine or verify how the B1351 variant was spread or transmitted to those workers,” Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham said.

Further analyses indicated that all nine cases likely originated from the same source, he added.

Experts fear that the B1351 variant could be resistant to existing vaccines and treatment, though vaccine maker Pfizer-BioNTech said on Thursday that its dose was effective against the strain.

Malaysia in February launched a nationwide Covid-19 vaccination programme, aiming to inoculate 80 per cent of its 32 million people within a year.

The South-east Asian country has detected more than 340,000 cases, including 1,278 deaths.

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