Malaysia bans travellers from countries deemed at risk from Omicron

Travellers arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on Nov 29, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia has temporarily banned the entry of travellers from countries that have reported the Omicron Covid-19 variant or are considered high risk, its health minister said on Wednesday (Dec 1).

The South-east Asian nation joins countries around the world that have limited travel from southern Africa, where the variant - believed to be the most contagious yet - was first detected.

The travel ban applies to eight African countries, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, but could be extended to other nations where the variant has been detected, such as Britain and the Netherlands, said Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

Malaysia will also delay plans to set up so-called vaccinated travel lanes (VTL) with the affected countries, and reimpose quarantine requirements for Malaysian citizens and long-term residents returning from those nations, regardless of their vaccination status.

"These are just temporary measures until we find out more about the Omicron variant," Mr Khairy said. "The moment we believe it is safe, we will lift these measures."

Malaysia has not reported any cases of the Omicron variant.

Malaysia, which has reported more than 2.6 million coronavirus cases, has gradually reopened its borders to travellers in recent weeks as infections have slowed amid a high vaccination rate.

Earlier this week, Malaysia and Singapore launched a two-way joint VTL, reopening their borders after nearly two years during the pandemic.

Mr Khairy said VTL travellers who arrive in Malaysia will be required to conduct a Covid-19 self test on the third and seventh day of their stay.

The results will have to be entered into the Mysejahtera contact tracing app.

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.