While Malaysia has yet to detect the Omicron variant locally, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin today cautioned the public regarding its potential spread in the country.
The minister, who is also the Member of Parliament for Rembau, said this in a tweet calling on the public to step up on safety measures and protection for the elderly. His comment came soon after two Omicron-infected travelers from South Africa transited through neighboring Singapore yesterday, as Singapore-Malaysia borders reopened for the first time in over a year.
“We know Omicron is probably more transmissible than Delta but we don’t yet know its virulence,” the 45-year-old said. “What we can do in the meantime is step up public health interventions (masks, distancing, hygiene), improve indoor air flow, keep our aged safe [and] take a booster when offered.”
The World Health Organization, or WHO, officially named the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 Omicron earlier this week after it was detected in South Africa. It is unclear whether Omicron is more infectious than Delta, according to WHO, but noted that existing coronavirus vaccines remain effective against death and serious illnesses.
The minister’s tweet this morning came as Singapore found two people infected with the Omicron variant at Changi Airport yesterday. The pair had departed from Johannesburg, South Africa, and were in transit to Sydney.
Omicron has also surfaced in other parts of the world like the Netherlands, Denmark, and Australia. Experts are still studying the new variant, which reportedly has over 30 mutations.
COVID-19 booster shots are now available for Malaysians aged 18 and above upon registration on the Protect Health website, which will then point them to the nearest vaccination centers. Booster shots are encouraged among the elderly, pregnant women, travelers, and frontline workers.