Malaysia says monitoring situation after news of Omicron detection in Singapore

Passengers from Malaysia clearing immigrations at Woodlands Checkpoint on the first day of the land VTL, on Nov 29, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Health Ministry is closely monitoring news that Singapore has detected two cases of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron.

Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said additional testing to detect the presence of the new variant would also be increased, on top of arrival and pre-departure testing.

"We are monitoring the situation closely and increasing the additional testing as announced.

"For those who are high-risk, we will do the genomic sequencing test," Tan Sri Noor Hisham said when contacted on Thursday (Dec 2).

The Singaporean Health Ministry on Thursday reported that two imported cases had preliminarily tested positive for Omicron.

Both cases were isolated upon arrival in Singapore on Wednesday, and had not interacted with anyone in the community, said the Singaporean health authorities.

On Monday, Malaysia's Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said his ministry would be increasing genomic surveillance at the country's international gateways to ensure that the new Covid-19 variant Omicron could be detected quickly.

Malaysia had also temporarily banned the entry of travellers from countries that had reported the Omicron variant or are considered high-risk.

The travel ban so far applies to eight African countries, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, but Mr Khairy said this could be extended to other nations where the variant has been detected.

Malaysia from Thursday temporarily barred travellers from more than 20 countries from taking part in the Langkawi international travel bubble programme, following the detection of cases involving the Omicron variant.

The countries and areas are the United Kingdom, Portugal, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Nigeria, Belgium, Japan, Brazil, Norway, Czech Republic, France or Reunion Island, Austria, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Ireland, United Arab Emirates and California in the United States.

The World Health Organisation said on Wednesday that at least 25 countries have reported cases linked to the new Covid-19 variant.

The ban also applies to those with a history of having travelled to these countries or areas within 14 days.

Malaysia also placed other countries and areas under the "high risk" categories. These nations have yet to report any Omicron-linked cases. They are Russia, Georgia, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia, North Macedonia, Guernsey, Croatia, French Guiana, the Philippines, Libya, Jordan, Bangladesh, Angola, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Travellers from these places are also barred from taking part in the Langkawi international travel bubble programme.

Dr Noor Hisham said in a statement that residents of Langkawi, involving both Malaysians and those with a long-term visit pass, from these places and with history of travelling to these places within 14 days, can only enter Malaysia via the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

"They are also required to undergo 14 days quarantine at the set centres before being allowed to continue with their journey to Langkawi. Direct flights to Langkawi are not allowed," he said.

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