The Omicron XE Covid-19 variant will likely reach Malaysia within a month, posing a "new danger", a medical epidemiologist told Malaysian news site The Star.
The new subvariant was termed a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization (WHO), who said that it is possibly more transmissible than previous Omicron subvariants.
However, the WHO said Omicron XE may not be a cause for concern yet, as there is currently insufficient evidence to draw conclusions.
Omicron XE will "theoretically" arrive much faster than Omicron
Universiti Putra Malaysia medical epidemiologist Malina Osman said even when Malaysia's borders were closed, the Omicron variant only took a month or two to reach Malaysia's shores.
Omicron XE, being more transmissible than previous variants, could therefore "theoretically" arrive in Malaysia much faster, said Malina.
Though requiring further confirmation, the WHO said in its latest weekly report on Apr. 5 that the new variant has a transmission advantage of about 10 per cent than Omicron BA.2, the most dominant form of Covid-19 worldwide.
According to CNBC, the Omicron XE variant has been detected in 637 patients in the UK.
The new variant has also been detected in Thailand and India.
Other health experts interviewed by The Star also said the new variant could come to Malaysia much faster, owing to the reopened borders.
Not a cause for concern yet
Malina told The Star there was no indication yet that Omicron XE was causing severe infections like the Delta variant, but said the risk was still high for the unvaccinated or those without previous infection.
Malaysian Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Apr. 5 that no cases of Omicron XE have been detected in Malaysia, and was not a concern yet for the country, according to Malay Mail.
He added that Malaysia will be sticking to its current Covid-19 strategy for the moment.
On Apr. 3, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that Singapore is always on the lookout for variants of concern declared by the WHO, reported The Straits Times.
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