Vietnam detects hybrid of Indian and UK COVID-19 variants
Vietnamese authorities have detected a new variant of the coronavirus which is a combination of the Indian and British variants of COVID-19 and is spreading rapidly by air, the health minister said on Saturday.
After successfully containing the virus for most of last year, Vietnam has struggled with an increase in infections since the end of April, which accounts for more than half of the 6,856 recorded cases. So far, there have been 47 deaths.
“Vietnam has discovered a new variant of COVID-19 combining the 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 two known variants.
“That the new one is an Indian variant with mutations which originally belong to the British variant is very dangerous,” he told a government meeting, a recording of which was obtained by Reuters.
The Southeast Asian country had previously detected seven variants of the virus: 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 “Indian a variant”.
Long said Vietnam would soon release data on the genome of the newly identified variant, which he said was more transmissible than previously known types.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified four variants of SARS-CoV-2 of global concern. These include variants that first appeared in India, Britain, South Africa, and Brazil.
“At this time, we have not yet evaluated the variant of the virus reported in Vietnam,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical officer for COVID-19, said in an emailed statement. “Our country office is working with the Ministry of Health in Vietnam and we expect more information soon.”
Based on current WHO knowledge, the variant detected in Vietnam was B.1.617.2, more commonly known as the Indian 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 show the virus to replicate very quickly, perhaps explaining why so many new cases have emerged in different parts of the country in a short period of time.
The Department of Health told the meeting that the government is working to secure 10 million doses of vaccine under the COVAX cost-sharing program, as well as an additional 20 million doses of Pfizer vaccine (PFE. N) and 40 million Sputnik V.
The country of about 98 million people has so far received 2.9 million doses and aims to get 150 million this year.
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