Malaysia Experiences A New Wave Of Omicron Sub-Variant XBB

The public is advised to take precautionary measures during this time as cases are expected to rise especially in the coming general election campaign.
Text by Corina Tan
Omicron XBB

New Coronavirus variants called “XBB” found in Hong Kong and Thailand.

Interim Health Minister, Khairy Jamaludin announced in a live press conference on October 31st , that there has been an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases recorded for the week of October 23rd to 29th in Malaysia. This increase is caused by the new Omicron sub-variant called XBB. For every 100,00 cases recorded, the increase is at 14%.

“Today we are facing a small wave, and we are unsure if this will become a bigger wave in the future. It will all come down to community behaviour in the coming weeks,” Khairy said.

“We would like to advise the public to take precautionary measures and keep safety in mind, especially during the upcoming election campaign where large groups of people will gather to support their respective candidates or parties,”he added.

He also reminded the public that Malaysia is still in the process of transitioning into endemicity where the ebbs and flows of cases are expected to be ongoing. He expressed further concern that the timing of this current wave will inadvertently coincide with the coming general elections.

Although wearing of masks are still voluntary, Khairy was seen wearing one at the press conference and made reference to the fact, as he reiterated the need to be extra careful during this time. He made clear that wearing masks is still highly recommended especially indoors where there is high traffic and large crowds. He also highlighted the need for caution especially for high risk groups such as those above 50 years of age, with chronic diseases and a compromised immune system.

“This is what it means to live with Covid. We are no longer enforcing rules on how to live, but rather are giving advice and recommendations based on emerging trends and updates,” he continued.

“Genome sequencing will need to be done using the RT-PCR tests, so we are looking into once again increasing the use of this test in order to facilitate whole genomic sequencing. This will enable us to obtain a profile for the sub-variant that is spreading in Malaysia.”

Those who are conducting self-test kits are encouraged to update their results whether negative or positive into MySejahtera to ensure accurate tabulation, and those who find themselves to be Covid positive should isolate and quarantine for 7 days.

He further announced that the second booster shot is still available and encouraged those who have not taken it to do so. Members of the public who are elderly or are suffering from chronic diseases and have been infected by Covid 19 can obtain the antiviral drug Paxlovid. which can prevent Covid symptoms from becoming severe.

Khairy advised political parties and politicians to lead by example in observing Covid- 19 standard operating procedures during their 15th general election campaign activities and walkabouts. He mentioned that wearing masks are highly recommended especially when candidates are out campaigning and visiting people at home. He hopes that announcements will be made to also encourage supporters to do the same.

Omicron XBB

He said that the ministry has already sent its view and recommendations to the Election Commission (EC) on the Covid-19 SOPs on polling day and that the Election Committee will be announcing the details soon.

A new bivalent vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech will be procured and is expected to arrive in November. “This is an existing procurement. We have changed our order from the old vaccine to the new vaccine,” Khairy said.

The United States Food and Drug Administration defines the bivalent Covid-19 vaccines as vaccines containing a broader protection against the virus. They are called bivalent because they contain components of both the original virus strain and the Omicron variant.

Images: Getty

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