“A new variant of the coronavirus with characteristics of existing Indian and British variants has been detected in Vietnam for the first time,” Vietnamese Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long said on Saturday at a national press conference.
But since the end of April, Vietnam has reported a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases. Almost half of its 6,396 confirmed infections were reported in the past month alone, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
It is not clear whether the suspected new variant is causing the sudden increase in infections. If so, it could suggest that it is more transmissible.
“The fourth wave of Covid-19 in Vietnam included infections in industrial areas, multiple sources of infections and the presence of various variants of the coronavirus. It will spread very quickly and it will be very difficult to control, ”said the Minister of Health.
The World Health Organization said on Saturday that its Virus Evolution Task Force was working with Vietnamese officials to confirm the possible new variant of the coronavirus after four people were confirmed to be infected with a suspected new strain.
“We have not yet done an assessment of the viral variant reported in Vietnam. We anticipate that more variants will continue to be detected as the virus circulates and evolves and sequencing capacities are strengthened around the world.” , WHO technical officer for Covid-19 Maria Van Kerkhove said in a statement.
“From what we understand, the variant they detected is the B.1.617.2 variant possibly with an additional mutation, but we will provide more information as soon as we receive it.”
The B.1.617.2 variant was first detected in India, where officials have said it and other variants have resulted in the country’s peak in Covid-19 cases.
Earlier this month, UK health authorities upgraded B.1.617.2 to a variant of concern due to its rapid spread in the UK.
New restrictions as cases increase
The new measures, in place for two weeks from Monday, include the closure of non-essential services, such as shops and restaurants, and the suspension of religious activities.
Public gatherings of more than 10 people are also banned, and the city plans to halve that number, according to Reuters.
The outbreak has spread to more than 30 of Vietnam’s 63 cities and provinces, including the capital Hanoi, which has closed restaurants and banned public gatherings.
In a country of more than 96 million people, less than 30,000 – 0.03% – have been vaccinated, according to JHU data.
Vietnam has so far received 2.9 million doses and aims to secure 150 million this year, Reuters reported.
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