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COVID-19 virus mutation that is '10 times' more infectious detected in Malaysia: Health director-general

COVID-19 virus mutation that is '10 times' more infectious detected in Malaysia: Health director-general

File photo of a shop vendor wearing a face mask outside a headscarves shop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 11, 2020. (Photo: AP/Vincent Thian)

KUALA LUMPUR: A mutation of the COVID-19 virus that is "10 times" more infectious has been detected in Malaysia.

The country's Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said the community had to be more careful, after a D614G mutation of the novel coronavirus was detected.

"It is found to be 10 times easier to infect other individuals and easier to spread, if spread by 'super spreader' individuals," Dr Noor Hisham said in a statement posted on his Facebook page on Sunday (Aug 16).

The mutation was detected by the Malaysian Institute for Medical Research, as a result of isolation and culture tests on three cases from the country's Sivagangga cluster and one case from the Ulu Tiram cluster.

"So far, these two clusters have been found to be under control as a result of the swift public health control actions," said Dr Noor Hisham. "This initial test and several follow-up tests are being conducted to test several other cases, including for the index case for the two clusters."

He added the D614G mutation was discovered by scientists in July, and is likely to cause current vaccine research to be incomplete or ineffective towards this mutation.

Dr Noor Hisham advised the public to continue to apply preventive measures and public health control by taking measures including physical distancing, self-hygiene practices and wearing face masks.

READ: FAQ: How can workers travel between Singapore and Malaysia and what are the COVID-19 protocols in place?

"The latest COVID-19 situation is found to be under control and the Ministry of Health and other agencies are still making efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19," Dr Noor Hisham said.

"Public cooperation is needed so that we can together break the chain of the COVID-19 infection from all types of mutations," he added.


Malaysia reported 25 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, nine of which were local transmissions while 16 were imported. 

In a separate statement, Dr Noor Hisham said this brings the cumulative total of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia to 9,200, with 216 active cases.

He said the nine local transmissions involved seven Malaysians, one of whom was a pre-surgery screening case at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Six cases were from the Tawar cluster in Baling, Kedah, five of which were in Kedah and one more in Penang. 

READ: Commentary: The former Malaysian workers in Singapore caught in limbo in Johor

"Two more local infections were detected among non-Malaysians in Kuala Lumpur where both cases were eatery workers after random screenings were done at their workplaces," Dr Noor Hisham said.

"News about the closure of the eatery has gone viral on social media and this has caused some anxiety among customers," he added.

"The district health office will conduct active case detection where further investigations and samplings will be done. The shop itself has been shut down temporarily for disinfection and sanitisation."

Dr Noor Hisham said the 16 imported cases were from Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, Lebanon, the United Kingdom and Japan.

READ: Malaysia economy contracts 17.1% in 2nd quarter, worst slump since 1998 financial crisis

He said 28 more cases had recovered from COVID-19, taking the cumulative number of recoveries to 8,859, or 96.3 per cent of the total.

"To date, there are seven COVID-19 positive cases in the intensive care unit, of which two require ventilator support," he said. 

No fatalities were reported on Sunday, with the death toll remaining at 125 cases. 

Elaborating on the Tawar cluster, Dr Noor Hisham said that with the new cases reported overnight, there were now 39 cases from this cluster. 

"Up to noon today, some 899 individuals have been screened from this cluster, of which 727 were screened in Kedah with 35 testing positive for COVID-19, 643 tested negative and 49 more are awaiting results. 

“Another 164 more were screened in Penang and from those, four individuals tested positive, 155 tested negative and five more are pending results.

"In Perak, eight were screened with five testing negative and three more awaiting results," he said. 

Active case detection and contact screenings are continuing for this cluster, he added. 

Malaysia's Health Ministry said on Twitter that three more clusters had been closed - the Kuala Lumpur restaurant cluster and the Ramnad and Kuching Jetty clusters, bringing the number of closed clusters to 78.

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