Putrajaya has paused the plan to move the country into the endemic phase of COVID-19, due to the emergence of the Omicron variant of the virus.

According to Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, the decision was taken by the cabinet at a Quartet Ministers meeting yesterday, until more is known about the Omicron variant, which the World Health Organization (WHO)has dubbed as posing a "very high" risk globally.

Speaking at a press conference in Parliament yesterday, Hishammuddin stressed that the travel ban imposed on seven African countries, namely South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, were based on health factors and not other reasons.

"I believe that these African countries understand that it isn't about diplomacy or geopolitics, but health. We don't want to jeopardise our progress in the last one-and-a-half years with irresponsible decisions," The Star quoted him saying.

It was initially reported that the Omicron variant was found by South African scientists on November 24, but now it has been revealed that the variant has taken a foothold elsewhere much earlier than the said date.

Among the countries which have reported cases of the variant are the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Hong Kong, Austria, Canada, Italy, Israel and Japan, among others.

Amid the breakout of the Omicron variant, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has urged the public to practise continued vigilance and adherence to COVID-19 protocols, and get their vaccine booster shots.

Source: The Star
Photo source: The Edge