Malaysia, which faces an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, on Wednesday banned flights to and from India and banned travelers from any Indian destination from entering the country to prevent the propagation of the new variant

Malaysia has detected its first case of a highly infectious coronavirus variant first identified in India, Health Minister Adham Baba said on Sunday, days after banning flights from India.

The variant, named B.1.617, was detected in an Indian national tested at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, he said.

The World Health Organization described him as a “variant of interest”, suggesting that he might have mutations that would make the virus more transmissible, cause more serious illness, or escape vaccine immunity.

“We advise the public to remain calm … All public health efforts will continue to break the chain of infection and ensure public safety,” Adham said.

He did not say when the variant was detected.

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Malaysia, which faces an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, on Wednesday banned flights to and from India and banned travelers from any Indian destination from entering the country to prevent the propagation of the new variant.

India is grappling with a devastating second wave of the coronavirus that has overwhelmed hospitals, morgues and crematoriums.

Malaysia launched a national COVID-19 vaccination program in February, aiming to vaccinate 80% of its 32 million people in one year.

The Southeast Asian country reported 3,418 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, bringing its total number of infections to 415,012 cases, including more than 1,500 deaths.

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