Vietnam says new Covid variant is hybrid of India and UK strains | Coronavirus | The Guardian
Authorities in Vietnam have detected a new coronavirus variant that is a combination of the Covid variants first identified in India and the UK and spreads quickly by air, the health minister has said.
After successfully containing the virus for most of last year, Vietnam is grappling with a rise in infections since late April that accounts for more than half of the total 6,856 registered cases. So far, there have been 47 deaths.
“Vietnam has uncovered a new Covid-19 variant combining characteristics of the two existing variants first found in India and the UK,” Nguyen Thanh Long said, describing it as a hybrid of the two known variants.
“That the new one is an Indian variant with mutations that originally belong to the UK variant is very dangerous,” he told a government meeting, a recording of which was obtained by Reuters.
The south-east Asian country had previously detected seven virus variants: B.1.222, B.1.619, D614G, B.1.1.7 – known as the UK variant, B.1.351, A.23.1 and B.1.617.2 – the India variant.
Long said Vietnam would soon publish genome data of the newly identified variant, which he said was more transmissible than the previously known types.
On Sunday the government said that Vietnam’s main business hub, Ho Chi Minh City, will begin social distancing measures for 15 days starting from Monday in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The city has seen a spike in cases related to a religious mission that has recorded at least 125 positive tests, accounting for most of the city’s infections, according to a government statement. “All events that gather more than 10 people in public are banned city-wide, but the city is considering to lower the number of people to just five,” the government said.
The World Health Organization has identified four variants of Sars-CoV-2 of global concern. These include variants that emerged first in India, Britain, South Africa and Brazil.
“At the present time, we have not yet made an assessment of the virus variant reported in Vietnam,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19. “Our country office is working with the Ministry of Health in Vietnam and we expect more information soon.”
From the WHO’s current understanding, the variant detected in Vietnam was the B.1.617.2 variant, more commonly known as the India variant, possibly with an additional mutation, she said.
“However, we will provide more information as soon as we receive it,” Van Kerkhove added.
Long said laboratory cultures of the new variant showed the virus replicated itself very quickly, possibly explaining why so many new cases had appeared in different parts of the country in a short period of time.
The health ministry told the meeting the government was working to secure 10m vaccine doses under the Covax cost-sharing scheme, as well as a further 20m doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and 40m of Russia’s Sputnik V.
The country of about 98 million people has so far received 2.9m doses and aims to secure 150m this year.
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