26 November 2021
A temporary entry ban on foreigners from several southern African countries without permanent resident (PR) status or working visas will be enforced following the discovery of a heavily mutated variant B.1.1.529.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the temporary move would take effect tomorrow.
“We view this seriously and will carry out genomic surveillance, including on individuals arriving from the countries that reported the new variant cases and any (other) destinations.
“Based on genomic surveillance, as of Feb 26, no new Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529 was reported in Malaysia,” he said in a press conference today.
However, Khairy said preventive steps and border control needed to be stepped up as precautionary measures against the new variant.
He said foreigners would not be allowed to enter the country until the temporary measures were reviewed.
Other measures included prohibiting Malaysians from visiting South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
The Immigration Department has been informed of the temporary restriction on those who had travel history within 14 days to the countries, said Khairy.
“Malaysians and foreigners with PR status would be allowed to enter the country, but subject to 14-day mandatory quarantine at designated stations regardless of their vaccination status.
“Foreigners (arriving from the said countries) without PR status or working passes are not allowed to enter the country until we review the temporary restrictions.”
Khairy said the Immigration Department has been informed of the need to check the individuals’ travel history, including those arriving from different destinations.
According to reports, the new variant has 32 mutations of spike protein, double the number of Delta variant, he said.
To date, he said, there was no available data on its incubation period, symptoms and infectivity rate, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) currently monitoring developments.
He said the B.1.1.529 has been categorised as “variant under monitoring”.
BBC News reported scientists describing the heavily mutated variant, named B.1.1.529 by the WHO, as an “unusual constellation of mutations” and that it was “very different” to other variants that have circulated.
Confirmed cases have been detected in Gauteng province in South Africa, four cases in Botswana and one in Hong Kong (which is directly linked to travel from South Africa).