Malaysia's new Covid cases top 5,000 again as Omicron spreads

KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) – Malaysia’s new coronavirus cases rose to the highest level in more than a month as the highly contagious Omicron variant starts to spread in the country.

The nation reported 5,439 new infections on Thursday (Jan 27), the most since Dec 9, data from the health ministry show.

The increase comes a day after Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that daily cases could rise, though the nation’s high vaccination rate would help keep the outbreak in control. The healthcare system is prepared for the Omicron wave and the number of serious cases are on the decline, he added.

While Malaysia is grappling with community transmission of Omicron, the bulk of the 601 cases of the variant detected so far are imported, official data show.

The jump in infections hasn’t led to an increase in hospitalisations or admissions to intensive care units – the key metrics the health ministry will use to decide the nation’s move to the endemic phase of the outbreak.

The country’s total bed and ICU usage at public hospitals, including for non-Covid cases, was at 67 per cent on Wednesday. The proportion for ICU utilisation by Covid patients stood at about 15 per cent, the data show.

Nearly 80 per cent of the nation’s total population has been fully vaccinated, and about 48 per cent of adults have received booster shots as of Wednesday. The country is set to begin inoculating children as young as five years next month.

An estimated 4 million children aged 5 to 12 years are eligible to receive the vaccine, and as of Thursday, 484,639 children have signed up for the jab, Deputy Health Minister Azmi Ghazali said in a statement.

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