Malaysia today recorded its first case of the Covid-19 variant from India, which is a double mutation known as B.1.617.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said the variant was identified through analysis of the whole genome sequencing (WGS), which was done between April 24 and May 1.
He said the first case in Malaysia of the double mutation variant, which is said to be contributing almost 60 percent to the sharp spike of Covid-19 infections in India currently, was detected in an Indian national.
“We report the first case of the variant from India, with double mutations known as B.1.617, in an Indian national screened at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA),” he said in a statement today.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the predominant lineage of B.1.617 was first identified in India last December. It has since been found in 17 countries, raising global concern.
The WHO has also described it as a “variant of interest”, suggesting it may have mutations that would make the virus more transmissible, cause more severe disease or evade vaccine immunity.
Other strains with known risks, such as those first detected in the UK, Brazil and South Africa, have been categorised as “variants of concern” (VOC), a higher threat level.
Adham said there has also been a first report of the variant from South Africa, B.1.351, in Perak and Kelantan, involving significant clusters, with 10 cases in each state. There were also seven B.1.351 cases detected in Selangor.
Meanwhile, the UK variant, known as B.1.1.7, has been detected in two cases in Selangor, and one in Sandakan, Sabah, involving a non-Malaysian, he added.
As for the number of Covid-19 cases today, the health ministry reported 3,418 cases and 12 deaths in the past 24 hours.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said there were 2,698 recoveries, bringing the total number of those discharged to 383,140.
In a statement, Noor Hisham said the total number of infections now stands at 415,012.
There are 30,339 active cases, with 345 patients being treated in intensive care and 175 needing respiratory assistance.
Meanwhile, the 12 deaths take the number of fatalities to 1,533.
Selangor recorded the highest number of cases with 1,200.
This was followed by Sarawak (587), Kelantan (400), Johor (213), Kuala Lumpur (198), Terengganu (184), Penang (145), Sabah (115), Kedah (101), Perak (77), Negeri Sembilan (73), Melaka (61), Pahang (45), Putrajaya (8), Labuan (7) and Perlis (4).
The new cases today involved 3,408 local infections and 10 imported cases. Local cases comprised 3,134 Malaysians and 274 foreigners.
Dr Noor Hisham also said the intensive care unit in all major hospitals in the Klang Valley are almost overwhelmed by severe Covid-19 cases with the occupancy rate reaching 90 percent this morning.
“We are running out of beds. Please stay healthy and stay safe.”
The dire appeal came as news reports emerged that the Health Ministry had proposed a third round of lockdown for several states that are seeing a resurgence of Covid-19 cases.
Kelantan is the only state under a statewide full movement control order at the moment.
Malaysia is facing what some experts believe to be a “fourth wave” of the pandemic, with the recent number of daily cases nearly reaching the 4,000 mark.
Dr Noor Hisham warned yesterday that ICUs in Klang Valley hospitals were once again nearing capacity after the resurgence of Covid-19 cases after most movement restrictions were relaxed.
In a series of tweets, Dr Noor Hisham posted photos of critically-ill Covid-19 patients forced to be placed in the Sungai Buloh Hospital general ward because of the overwhelmed ICU.
Sharing our Critically ill Covid-19 patients in Sungai Buloh Hospital ICU. We are almost running out of beds. Please stay healthy and stay safe. pic.twitter.com/XbCFaf0JIy
— Noor Hisham Abdullah (@DGHisham) May 2, 2021
“Staff from the Sungai Buloh Hospital medical department seen here pushing ventilators for use in the general wards,” he wrote.