World

Malaysia detects Covid-19 strain that is 10 times more infectious

Mutation of coronavirus may render existing vaccine research ineffective, says country's health chief

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian health authorities yesterday said they have detected a mutation of the coronavirus that is far more infectious than the original Wuhan strain.

The D614G mutation was discovered by the Institute for Medical Research in Malaysia in three cases from two Covid-19 clusters in the country - the Sivagangga cluster and the Ulu Tiram cluster, said health chief Noor Hisham Abdullah in a Facebook post yesterday.

According to Dr Noor Hisham, the discovery of the mutation means people need to be more careful and continue being disciplined in practising safety measures such as social distancing, personal hygiene and wearing of masks.

"It's found to be 10 times more infectious and is easily spread by an individual super spreader," he said.

He said the D614G mutation was discovered by scientists last month and is likely to render existing vaccine research incomplete or ineffective against the new strain, Bernama reported.

Nevertheless he noted that the swift action by Malaysia's public health authorities has controlled the virus' spread from the affected clusters.

Parts of Penang were also put back under strict movement control orders as a precaution.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow appealed for calm yesterday, saying there were no clusters in Penang and the new cases over the past few days were from clusters in other states.

"People should remain calm and carry on with their daily activities as normal by practising physical distancing, wearing face masks and following all the standard operating procedures," he said.

Malaysia recorded 25 new cases yesterday, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 9,200 .

Dr Noor Hisham said 16 were imported cases and nine were locally transmitted. The death toll remains at 125.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, Manila's jeepney drivers now ply the streets on foot begging for money.

Some drivers carry plastic containers and cardboard signs around their necks to catch the attention and sympathy of passing motorists.

"We have absolutely nothing left to spend," Mr Daniel Flores told AFP as he sat inside his jeepney, parked in a street.

Crammed with cooking pots, clothes and other humble possessions, it is now home to him, his wife and two children as they have been evicted.

A sign asking for help from passers-by sits on top of the vehicle, which his boss has loaned him.

Drivers like Mr Flores, who has not picked up a fare since March, and millions of others, are out of work after the months-long restrictions crippled the economy, plunging the country into recession.

He occasionally gets odd jobs, but that is not enough to feed his family.

"Often we eat just once a day. Sometimes, if no one helps us, we don't eat at all," Mr Flores said.

The Philippines recorded 3,420 cases and 65 deathsyesterday. It now has a total of 161,253 infections and 2,665 deaths.

Indonesia, yesterday reported 2,081 cases and 79 deaths.

The total number of cases there now stands at 139,549. - THE STAR, REUTERS, AFP

WORLD