Currently, there is a concern with the emergence of the Delta and the Delta+ variant around the world. People who have already completed their vaccination can still get COVID-19 from this variant, however, they will have more mild symptoms compared to those not vaccinated. Prof Dr Victor Hoe addresses those issue in his interview with the News Strait Times and the Star newspaper.
Should Malaysia be concerned about this new variant of concern (VOC)? What steps should be taken to curb the transmission of this new VOC?
The SARS-CoV-2 virus will continue to mutate as long as the prevalence of the disease is still high in the community. There will be more variants coming in the future, some of the variants will become VOC. Malaysia should be concerned with all VOC as the only variant that has increased risk in severity or transmissibility will be considered as VOC. Since the VOC are not yet in Malaysia, the SOP at the border control points need to be stringent. There are many places where people can come into Malaysia as we have a very long coastline. The important thing is to ensure that all returnees or visitors coming into Malaysia need to be quarantined for between 14 and 21 days. If we can stop the VOC from coming into Malaysia then we will be better off. Currently, the main VOC is the Beta variant. The Beta variant is more transmissible compared to the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the vaccine is also less effective against the Beta variant. These are the reasons we are seeing an increase in the number of cases since April 2021.
Does this new VOC require a change in the way we practise SOPs currently?
Although new information has emerged that the SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted through the airborne route. The current SOP is adequate to control the new VOC. That is wearing a face mask, physical distancing, and constant hand hygiene. We also need to avoid crowds, confine spaces and close conversation. The additional SOP that we need is to avoid activities that required us to remove the mask, especially in an enclosed environment, e.g., in a restaurant, gym, etc. As the SARS-CoV-2 is airborne, it can be transmitted from one person to the next if we are not wearing mask indoors.