Twelve cases of the Covid-19 XBB.1.16 subvariant, better known as the Arcturus variant, have been reported in Malaysia, with all patients suffering mild symptoms and in stable condition.
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said of the total, six cases were detected in Sarawak, four in Selangor, and two in Kuala Lumpur.
She said the strain, which is a subvariant of Omicron, was formed as a result of the combination or recombinant variant BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75, and that as of April 2, it had been detected in at least 31 countries around the world, including Malaysia.
"The World Health Organization has classified it as a variant of interest (VOI), and the Technical Advisory Group on the SARS-CoV Virus Evaluation has assessed it as a subvariant requiring attention but not in the variant under monitoring class.
"Even though Malaysia has detected XBB.1.16 since March this year, Covid-19 infections are still under control and do not burden the health services capacity at hospitals and clinics," she said in a statement.
She said that global risk assessment reported the infection risk and case severity caused by XBB1.16 to be lower than subvariant XBB.1.5 or any other subvariants, as previously reported.
Zaliha said there was a 6.4% drop in Covid-19 cases reported in epidemiology week 16/23, from 5,149 to 4,817 cases.
To date, 70.97% or 8,319 of the cumulative Covid-19 cases have been categorised as variants of concern and VOI, namely Omicron and its subvariants.
Zaliha reminded the public to continue practising TRIIS (test, report, isolate, inform and seek) if they experience any symptoms.
She urged those who test positive for Covid-19 to self-isolate immediately for the stipulated period.
Zaliha said her ministry would continue to monitor the situation and Covid-19 variants or sub-variants in the country and abroad, in addition to ensuring that health services are in optimal condition to ensure the well-being of Malaysians.