Slowly reducing Covid-19 cases leads to creating new variants

KUALA LUMPUR: Delayed action taken in lowering Covid-19 cases would inevitably lead to increasing numbers of infection as well as lead to the emergence of new variants.

Former Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan said when a widely circulating virus causes thousands of new infections, the chances of the virus mutating increases.

He said every Covid-19 case allows the virus to mutate and if the number of infections continues to rise, more new variants are likely to emerge.

"All viruses including SARS-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19 to replicate itself, changing its configuration over time. This is normal for viruses. Such changes are called mutations.

"A virus with one or more new mutation is referred to as a variant of the original virus (and while) in the process (of mutating, the new variant) may or may not become more potent at times.

"The more opportunity a virus has to spread, the more it replicates. This means it will have more opportunity to change," he told the New Straits Times, explaining the reason why lockdown measures are important.

Former Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan. - NSTP File Pic

Universiti Putra Malaysia's Professor of Medical Microbiology and a Consultant Clinical Microbiologist Prof Dr Zamberi Sekawi said swift action in getting daily Covid-19 cases to drop as much as possible is imperative to prevent new variants from emerging.

"If we have many cases, it allows the virus to mutate hence the reason new variants emerge here and there," he said.

For the past few weeks, Malaysia's Covid-19 daily cases are increasing dramatically to four digits despite the country being placed in a state of emergency.

The government had also imposed a ban on interstate travels while certain areas with high Covid-19 cases are placed under the various types of Movement Control Orders (MCOs) but so far, daily infection cases continue to soar.

At the moment, vaccine manufacturers are working on covering all new variants, but Dr Zamberi said that this is still a work in progress.

Despite the slow vaccine updates, he said the public should not avoid getting it as all Covid-19 shots provide some protection.

"To say that the vaccines we have doesn't work at all is not true. The vaccines cover most variants.

"We need to have a bigger population coverage and beta analysis. Only then we can confirm if a certain type of vaccine is not working for us," he said.

According to Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, currently, there are 48 cases of South African Covid-19 variant B.1.351 in the country while eight cases of the UK B.1.1.7 variant were also detected.

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