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Omicron BA.5 variant likely to cause spike in cases, Khairy says

He says BA.5 is the main sublineage affecting the global increase in cases.

2 minute read
Arriving travellers are tested for Covid-19 at KLIA in Sepang.
Arriving travellers are tested for Covid-19 at KLIA in Sepang.

Five Omicron BA.5 variant cases have been detected in Malaysia and are likely to spread widely, resulting in an increase in Covid-19 cases, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said today.

He said that as of June 30, a total of 13 Omicron sublineage cases were being closely monitored: six cases of BA.2.12.1, five cases of BA.5, and two cases of BA.5.2, all of which tested positive between May and June.

"To date, no cases of the Omicron BA.4 variant have been recorded. If we look at it in terms of epidemiology in other countries, BA.5 is the main sublineage affecting the increase in cases globally and we expect BA.5 to continue further increasing the number of daily cases in Malaysia.

"Omicron BA.5 is the most easily spread version of the Covid-19 virus to date compared with the previous BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron variants, but it also has the feature to infect those already infected with Omicron BA.1 and BA. 2," he said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today.

He said the situation had also resulted in an increase in hospital admissions in countries such as Singapore, Portugal and the UK.

However, he said information from Israel and the US showed that individuals who had completed their primary vaccination and received two booster doses, especially those aged 60 and above, had lower mortality rates than those who had received only one booster dose.

On the expected peak period of the Omicron BA.5 variant, he said the health ministry expected cases to increase within one or two months, three months at the most, based on its experience in dealing with the previous Omicron variant waves.

Asked about the severity of the Omicron BA.5 and BA.4 variants compared with BA.1 and BA.2, Khairy said for now, the ministry did not see any change in case severity.

"I was informed by infectious disease specialists that most likely the severity of this BA.5 variant is not worse than the original Omicron wave. We are expecting the severity to be roughly the same as the initial Omicron variant," he said.