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Coronavirus

Malaysia detects 1st omicron case in traveler from South Africa

Variant found after retesting sample from person under quarantine

Arrivals at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in November. Malaysia has detected its first case of the omicron coronavirus variant.   © Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) -- Malaysia has detected its first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant in a foreign student who was quarantined after arrival from South Africa two weeks ago, its health minister said on Friday.

Authorities had re-tested earlier positive samples after the World Health Organisation announced omicron as a variant of concern on Nov. 24, minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.

The 19-year-old woman, who was asymptomatic and had been vaccinated, had tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Malaysia, via Singapore, and was quarantined for 10 days before being released on Nov. 29, Khairy said.

Five other people who shared a vehicle with her prior to her quarantine all tested negative.

Authorities, however, have asked the student along with eight close contacts to undergo further testing after her earlier test samples were confirmed to be the new variant, Khairy added.

An increasing number of countries are reporting cases of the Omicron variant, which the WHO has said carries a very high risk of causing surges of infection.

Neighbouring Singapore confirmed two imported cases on Thursday.

This week, Malaysia temporarily banned the entry of travelers from eight southern African countries that have reported the presence of the variant or are considered high-risk.

On Friday, Khairy said Malaysia would immediately imposed further restrictions, including additional tests for vaccinated travelers from Singapore, who are allowed to enter Malaysia without quarantine.

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