Malaysia reports the highest number of Covid-19 cases in a month as VTL resumes

The authorities reported 4,046 cases, the first time the number breached the 4,000 mark since Dec 18. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia reported its highest tally of Covid-19 cases in over a month on Friday (Jan 21) as health officials warned that Omicron would be the dominant variant in the country soon.

The authorities reported 4,046 cases, the first time the number breached the 4,000 mark since Dec 18. As of Thursday, the country's infectivity rate was 1.0, indicating that the spread of cases is accelerating. A rate of 1.0 means that any infected person will on average infect one other person.

Malaysia's infectivity rate breached 1.0 on Jan 11 and has fluctuated around that figure for the past 10 days. Prior to that, the last time Malaysia's infectivity rate breached 1.0 was on Nov 23 last year, before Omicron was designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation.

The month-long high in case numbers comes as ticket sales for the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme between Malaysia and Singapore resumed - albeit with a reduced daily quota - on Friday, just about a week away from Chinese New Year.

The Health Ministry had already predicted an uptick in cases with Omicron as the country kept its economy and borders open, even though the variant has run rampant elsewhere in the world.

"The modelling we do at the Health Ministry suggests Omicron cases and cases in general will rise in February and March," said Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin on Thursday.

But Mr Khairy said Omicron cases were so far not as serious as those who were infected by the earlier Delta variant, which killed tens of thousands of Malaysians last year (2021) despite months of lockdowns.

Hospital admissions for Covid-19 patients declined by 19.2 per cent from last week.

On Thursday, only 47 out of 3,764 cases reported symptoms in need of treatment.

As at Thursday, hospital bed usage in Malaysian hospitals stood at 62 per cent, while ventilator usage stood at 33.4 per cent.

Malaysia had 41,617 active Covid-19 patients as at Thursday, but 83.4 per cent of them are under home quarantine - normally given to those who have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic. The number of patients in hospital stood at 2,687.

The country reported 22 deaths from Covid-19 on Thursday and Omicron has not led to any rise in fatalities.

Malaysia has so far detected 439 Omicron cases - most of which were imported.

On Wednesday, the government said it would allow house visits and reunion dinners for the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations, although open houses are prohibited. Open houses often involve a constant stream of visitors, including the public, while house visits are closed-door and for invited guests only.

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