A total of 245 Covid-19 cases of the ultra contagious Omicron variant have been detected in Malaysia so far, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said today.
Of these, 233 were import cases while 12 were local transmissions.
Khairy said 157 or 64.08% were travellers returning from the umrah pilgrimage.
“A total of 44 cases were confirmed as Omicron through full genome sequencing at the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) while seven local transmissions in Sarawak were confirmed as Omicron by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak,” he said at a press conference.
“Of the 44 import cases, 29 were from Saudi Arabia, five from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), five from Kazakhstan, three from the UK and one each from the US and Tanzania.”
Khairy said another 72 Omicron cases were confirmed by the IMR earlier, 59 of which were from Saudi Arabia.
In a related development, Khairy said the government had decided to suspend travel for the umrah pilgrimage for a month beginning Jan 8.
During this time, he said, the health ministry would conduct risk assessments and study several issues, particularly related to the SOPs.
“The health ministry together with the related agencies will update the SOPs for umrah including setting conditions for booster shots, the management of cases and close contacts, as well as monitoring the health status of pilgrims in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
He said those returning from the pilgrimage would also be ordered to undergo quarantine.
“The health ministry has held discussions with the transport and tourism ministries, to find a way to reschedule the trips and flights delayed due to the government’s decision,” he added.
Khairy also denied that the government was targeting travellers from Saudi Arabia for monitoring.
He said the decision was made given that many Omicron cases had originated from the country.
“Of the 1,842 positive cases recorded among travellers at the KLIA entry point during the last week of 2021, 1,558 were from Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The country with the second highest number of positive cases was Turkey, with 84, followed by the UAE and the UK with 50 and 47 each.