PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Health Ministry said on Wednesday (Dec 23) it has identified a new Covid-19 strain in the country from samples taken in Sabah.
The ministry's director-general, Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, said it is still unknown whether the strain - dubbed the "A701B" mutation - is more infectious than usual.
"It is similar to a strain found in South Africa, Australia and the Netherlands," he said at his daily news conference.
"The Covid-19 virus always mutates, and we are always monitoring and researching the implication of the different strains towards the population."
He added: "We detected this mutation in 60 samples taken from Covid-19 patients under the Benteng Lahad Datu cluster in Sabah.
"We still have not ascertained whether this strain has a high infectivity level and whether it is more aggressive than usual."
He added that Malaysia had previously discovered a mutation said to have 10 times more infectivity than normal strains.
The D614G mutation of Covid-19 hit Kedah around August, and the state soon saw a rapid rise in infections.
On the Covid-19 mutation found in the United Kingdom, which is also said to be highly infectious, he said the ministry is monitoring the situation.
The government, however, does not intend to backtrack on the mandatory quarantine ruling from 10 days to 14 days due to the discovery of the UK mutation.
"If we look at the data of our quarantine ruling, there is not much difference between 10 and 14 days of isolation.
"Most of the time, an individual will develop symptoms within the first week.
"If the quarantine period is only seven days, then maybe there is high risk, but 10 days or 14 days is not much different, based on our experience, " said Dr Noor Hisham.
Travellers arriving in the country from abroad continue to be subjected to Covid-19 tests, and a quarantine order if they test negative.
Those who test positive will be sent to hospital for isolation and treatment.