Healthcare stocks mixed as new Covid-19 strain emerges


LOCAL health-related stocks traded mixed yesterday after the emergence of a new Covid-19 strain in the UK saw at least 27 countries put a ban on flights and travellers from the UK.

While Bursa Malaysia’s healthcare index was up marginally by 0.03% or 1.12 points yesterday to close at 3,703.43, losers led gainers six to four with three counters unchanged. The index saw some 45.67 million units traded yesterday.

Apex Healthcare Bhd led gainers rising by 1.67% or six sen to RM3.66, followed by Hartalega Holdings Bhd which rose 1.13% or 14 sen to RM12.50, YSP South-East Asia Holdings Bhd was up by 0.87% or two sen to RM2.32 and Supermax Corp Bhd rose 0.73% or five sen to RM6.89.

Laggers were Adventa Bhd which fell by 1.83% or three sen to RM1.61, followed by Pharmaniaga Bhd which declined 1.17% or six sen to RM5.06, Kossan Rubber Industries Bhd fell by 1.17% or six sen to RM5.07 and TMC Life Sciences Bhd was down 0.88% or half a sen to 56 sen.

Duopharma Biotech Bhd, IHH Healthcare Bhd and KPJ Healthcare Bhd traded flat yesterday.

Shares of aviation-based counters like Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) and AirAsia Group Bhd were mildly impacted by the news, with MAHB falling 11 sen to RM5.67, while the cash-strapped low-cost carrier eased one sen to 87.5 sen.

Several countries have banned or will ban flights and travellers from the UK after the British government announced on Sunday that the spread of a more infectious new strain of Covid-19 is now “out of control”.

Most European countries have imposed a 48-hour ban on all flights from the UK. Others like Finland, Iran and Italy have decided to extend the ban by two weeks until year-end, while the rest are opting to take more caution by suspending all UK flights until further notice.

In Asia, India and Hong Kong announced the suspension of all flights originating from the UK. Other nations like Japan and South Korea said they were “closely monitoring” the new strain, but has yet to cancel any flights from the UK.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday said the new strain could be up to 70% more infectious though it is not thought to be more deadly and that vaccines should still be effective.

Health officials said the number of new infections in Britain has soared in the last two weeks.

Local media had earlier quoted Britain’s chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance as saying that the new variant is becoming the dominant form in parts of England, including London, the southeast and east of England.