KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 3): Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin warned on Friday (Dec 3) there is a "big likelihood” there are already more Covid-19 cases of the Omicron variant in Malaysia because the first infection detected on Thursday involved a South African national who arrived in Malaysia on Nov 19 — before the World Health Organization (WHO) designated Omicron as a variant of concern (VOC).
The WHO later on its website on Nov 26 designated Omicron as a Covid-19 VOC on the advice of its Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution.
Khairy at a press conference on Friday said Malaysians would have to accept the possibility that there are already Omicron cases in the country as that has happened in other nations.
According to the health minister, the comprehensive contact tracing following the first Omicron case detected in Malaysia demonstrated that "we picked up this case from Nov 19, way earlier than the WHO” which only designated Omicron as a VOC on Nov 26.
“With that being the case, the message to the public is that there is a big likelihood that Omicron is [already] in Malaysia, that there are other cases, and we will increase genomic surveillance to be certain,” he added.
On the first Omicron case in Malaysia, Khairy said the South African national is a 19-year-old student studying at a private university in Ipoh, Perak.
According to him, the comprehensive contact tracing involved passengers on the aeroplane which the South African national boarded to come to Malaysia as well as those within the Kuala Lumpur International Airport's (KLIA) check-in area.
Khairy added that Malaysia is still trying to get more information on Omicron, such as its infectivity and the severity of symptoms in people infected by the variant.