Khairy: Another 123 Covid-19 Omicron cases detected, 88 from umrah returnees

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An umrah pilgrim gets ready to check in at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, January 6, 2022. — Bernama pic
An umrah pilgrim gets ready to check in at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, January 6, 2022. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 6 — Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said today 123 new Omicron cases have been detected in the country, bringing the total number of cases involving the highly transmissible variant of Covid-19 to 245.

He said that 233 of the cases were imported while 12 were transmitted locally.

The minister added that 88 of the new cases were pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia after performing the umrah.

“Of the total number of Omicron cases reported, 157 cases, or 64.08 per cent involved umrah pilgrims,” he said in a press conference today.

Khairy said Saudi Arabia is Malaysia’s largest source of imported Covid-19 cases, with the data showing 1,558 out of the 1,842 cases (85 per cent) detected at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in the final week of December 2021 being from there.

This is followed by Turkey at 84 cases, the United Arab Emirates at 50 cases, and the United Kingdom at 47 cases.

“The data is clearly showing us that it is coming from one particular source.

“If the Health Ministry didn’t act on the data by postponing umrah pilgrimages, we wouldn’t be able to slow down the imminent Omicron wave,” he said.

He also shot back at those criticising him over the umrah travel suspension, saying this was justified by the number of cases being imported from Saudi Arabia.

He added that the ban will only be for a month, adding that should imported cases from other countries increase too, the government will restrict travel from there as well.

Khairy said that an even more concerning matter was that 10 Malaysians who tested positive for the Covid-19 Omicron variant after returning to the country did not have any vaccination record.

He said that they were out of the 17 Omicron cases who were found to be unvaccinated, with seven others being foreigners.

He added that an investigation will be launched to determine how these individuals managed to travel overseas without being vaccinated.

“Based on the Health Ministry’s initial investigation, it was found that out of the 122 people who were found to have the Omicron variant in the country so far, 17 of them had not been vaccinated.

“We will discuss this with stakeholders, including travel agencies, regarding compliance and the conditions that have been set,” he said.

The Health Ministry temporarily suspended travel permission to prospective pilgrims beginning January 8 to curb the spread of Omicron following concerns over the spread of the variant due to non-compliance by Muslim pilgrims with quarantine procedures upon their return.

Khairy said he is discussing the options for affected pilgrims on whether to offer a refund or reschedule the umrah travel programmes with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture as well as the Umrah and Haj Travel Agencies’ Association.

He later said that his ministry would continue to respond in a calibrated and appropriate manner, and not resort to extremes such as implementing a total lockdown.

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