Vietnam detects new hybrid of two COVID variants

Joanna Estrada
May 30, 2021

Vietnam's Health Ministry on Saturday said it has detected a new variant of the coronavirus that is a mix of the virulent Indian and United Kingdom variants, and spreads quickly by air, Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said on Saturday.

"Vietnam has uncovered a new COVID-19 variant combining characteristics of the two existing variants first found in India and the UK", Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said, describing it as a hybrid of the two known variants.

The dominant variant in the United Kingdom, the B.1.1.7 variant, is known to be more transmissible, while the B.1.617 variant is said to be more adept at evading the human body's immune response. "The concentration of virus in the throat fluid increases rapidly and spreads very strongly to the surrounding environment", Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long told local reporters. However, a surge of cases in May brought the country's total to 6,713 cases, with outbreaks recorded in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, as the country's fourth wave of infections shows signs of becoming its largest. VnExpress quoted Long as saying Vietnam would announce the newly discovered variant to the world soon.

Vietnam, which has so far reported a total 6,856 coronavirus cases and 47 deaths, had successfully contained the infection for most part of the a year ago.

Vietnam has previously received widespread applause for its aggressive pandemic response, with mass quarantines and strict contact tracing helping keep infection rates relatively low.

Vietnam - a country of 97 million people - has vaccinated a little over a million citizens.

Authorities have called on people and businesses to donate money to help procure vaccines, while embassies and global organisations have been contacted for assistance, state media reported.

The country presently has close to two million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine remaining, but said it is buying more than 30 million doses of the Pfizer shot.

State media also reported that Vietnam is in discussions with Russian Federation to produce Sputnik V, and is working on a home-grown vaccine.

Almost 3,600 people have been infected in 31 of its 63 cities and provinces since late April, accounting for more than half of the country's total infections. Despite strict health regulations, a company in Bac Giang discovered that one fifth of its 4,800 workers had tested positive for the virus. All religious events are banned nationwide, and authorities in major cities have closed public parks and nonessential businesses to help stop large gatherings, according to the AP.

Seven other coronavirus variants had been detected in the country prior to Saturday's announcement.

"Principally speaking, it should not be called the Thai variant because the infected person is from overseas", said Opas Kankawinpong, head of Thailand's disease control department.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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