Malaysian experts advise close monitoring of new COVID-19 variant

Tuesday, 2021-09-07 09:36:13
 Font Size:     |        Print

Collecting a sample for COVID-19 testing in Klang, Selangor, Malaysia (Photo: Xinhua/VNA)
 Font Size:     |  

NDO/VNA - Malaysian experts have recommended health officials keep a close eye on the new COVID-19 variant, dubbed "Mu", as it has the potential to be more transmissible, more virulent and possibly able to evade vaccines, reported the New Straits Times.

Epidemiologist Professor Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud of Universiti Malaya said although a variant may not be a Variant of High Consequence, it can still wreak havoc by being more transmissible or more virulent, either of which can cause it to be categorised as a Variant of Concern (VOC).

According to the expert, if it is more transmissible, it can spread so quickly that it overwhelms the health services, resulting in sub-optimal services and hence, increased morbidity and mortality. If it is more virulent, it can cause a higher degree of morbidity among those infected, which in itself can cause more deaths or a longer-lasting illness.

The Mu variant, also known as lineage B.1.621, was first identified in Colombia in January.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had, on August 30, designated Mu as a Variant of Interest (VOI) after it was detected in 39 countries, making it the fifth VOI after Eta, Iota, Kappa and Lambda. WHO, in its COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update published on August 31, said the Mu variant "has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape".

Awang Bulgiba, who is Chairman of the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry's Covid-19 Epidemiological Analysis and Strategies Task Force, said efforts needed to be taken to boost preparedness, which included implementing a robust quarantine procedure for incoming travellers.

Malaysia needed a clear pandemic management strategy, greater granular data transparency, engagement with experts outside the health ministry, and long-term investment in its own vaccine technology, he added.

Molecular virologist Dr Vinod Balasubramaniam, a senior lecturer (microbiology) at the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Monash University Malaysia, called on the nation to stay vigilant and tighten control, testing at borders and monitoring this development closely.