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

Meanwhile, authorities would cut the wait time for booster
vaccine doses amid concerns over the spread of omicron, health minister Khairy
Jamaluddin told reporters.

Authorities have detected 306 suspected omicron cases out of
366 samples from travellers who had tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival
between Dec 21 and 25, he said.

“We are still 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.

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

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