Malaysia has detected nine Covid-19 cases of the South African B.1.351 variant which was first identified among four local cases in March, says health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
He said initial investigations found that the four cases had geographical and close relations with the Jalan Lima Cluster as shown in a phylogenetic analysis.
“Two cases were believed to have originated from the Jalan Lima Cluster involving workers of a company which is based at KLIA. However, it was difficult to identify and verify the B.1.351 variant’s mode of transmission to these workers.
“One case was from the Kebun Baru Cluster and another case was a family member of a Covid-19 patient who is living in the same house,” he said in a statement on Covid-19 development yesterday.
Following the first discovery of the variant, Noor Hisham said more genome sequencing was carried out using the Covid-19 positive samples from geographical locations including the Kuala Langat and Sepang districts.
He said the findings of the tests revealed that five more cases from the localities had been infected with the variant, of which four were from the Kebun Baru Cluster and the other from the Jalan Lima Cluster.
Noor Hisham said the Institute for Medical Research had identified and verified the presence of the South African B.1.351 variant among the local Covid-19 cases through genomic surveillance.
He said the genomic surveillance strategy involved samples that were confirmed positive for the coronavirus from January this year until March 31.
“It involves positive cases from local clusters in Selangor, Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Melaka, Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan, positive cases with history of travelling abroad, and death cases due to Covid-19,” he said.
He said the South African B.1.351 variant was first detected in the UK and South Africa in December 2020.
The variant has also been reported in other countries including the US, Canada, Germany, Australia and South Korea.