Vietnam detects new suspected coronavirus variant which is a hybrid of British and Indian strains



“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.

The Southeast Asian country has been touted as a leading example of containing the virus through an aggressive strategy of early screening of passengers at airports and a strict quarantine and surveillance program.

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.

Health workers take swabs to test for Covid-19 at Thanh Xuan District Medical Center in Hanoi on May 15.

“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

On Sunday, the government announced social distancing restrictions for Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s largest and most populous urban area, according to Reuters news agency.

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.

Ho Chi Minh City has seen an increase in cases linked to a religious mission that recorded at least 125 positive tests, accounting for most of the city’s infections, Reuters reported, citing a government statement.
Beyond India, a growing number of Asian countries ravaged by new waves of coronavirus

Public gatherings of more than 10 people are also banned, and the city plans to halve that number, according to Reuters.

Vietnam last week expanded lockdown measures in its industrialized north after the country experienced its biggest jump in Covid-19 cases, driven by clusters in industrial zones in Bac Ninh and Bac Giang provinces , Reuters reported.

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.

The Health Ministry is working to secure 10 million doses of the vaccine under the COVAX cost-sharing program, as well as an additional 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 40 million of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, according to Reuters.

Vietnam has so far received 2.9 million doses and aims to secure 150 million this year, Reuters reported.


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