Malaysia lifts African travel ban, cuts booster wait amid Omicron fears

People wait to be tested for Covid-19 outside a clinic in Kajang, Malaysia. File photo.
People wait to be tested for Covid-19 outside a clinic in Kajang, Malaysia. File photo.
Image: REUTERS/ LIM HUEY TENG

Malaysia has lifted a travel ban on eight southern African countries that had been among the first to report the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, citing the greater spread of the variant worldwide, its health minister said on Tuesday.

Health minister Khairy Jamaluddin also announced authorities would cut the waiting time for booster vaccine doses amid concerns about the spread of Omicron.

Authorities have detected 306 suspected Omicron cases out of 366 samples from travellers who tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival between December 21 and 25, he said.

“We are waiting for results from the whole genome sequencing to confirm,” he said, adding that Malaysia has reported only one confirmed case of local transmission so far.

Jamaluddin  said given the rapid spread of the variant globally, there was no reason to continue with a travel ban against countries in Africa.

The eight countries, which include South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, will remain on a list of nations deemed as high-risk, with travellers from those nations subject to additional restrictions upon arrival, he said.

Malaysia has cancelled mass gatherings for Christmas and over the New Year, and imposed requirements for Covid-19 vaccine boosters among high-risk groups since recording its first case of the Omicron variant earlier this month.

On Tuesday, the health minister said authorities will allow the interval between primary and booster doses for all vaccines to be reduced to three months, joining a growing number of countries, including SA, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, that have cut waiting times in a bid to ward off a new surge of infections.

Reuters


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