Vietnam discovers new Covid strain, combination of Indian and UK variants
Published: 11:58 AM, 30 May 2021
Vietnam has discovered a new coronavirus variant which is a combination of strains first found in India and the UK.
"We have discovered a new hybrid variant from the Indian and the UK strains," Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said in a national meeting on the pandemic Saturday.
"The characteristic of this strain is that it spreads quickly in the air. The concentration of virus in the throat fluid increases rapidly and spreads very strongly to the surrounding environment."
However, he did not specify the number of cases recorded with this new variant but said Vietnam will soon announce the discovery in the world’s map of genetic strains.
Vietnam’s Central Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology said in a statement on Saturday that its scientists had detected gene mutations in four out of 32 patient samples through gene sequencing.
There were seven known coronavirus variants in Vietnam before Long’s announcement, according to the Ministry of Health.
Vietnam was initially a standout success in battling the virus - in early May, it had recorded just over 3,100 confirmed cases and 35 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
But in the last few weeks, Vietnam has confirmed more than 3,500 new cases and 12 deaths, increasing the country’s total death toll to 47.
Most of the new transmissions were found in Bac Ninh and Bac Giang, two provinces dense with industrial zones where hundreds of thousands of people work for major companies including Samsung, Canon and Luxshare, a partner in assembling Apple products. Despite strict health regulations, a company in Bac Giang discovered that one fifth of its 4,800 workers had tested positive for the virus.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s largest metropolis and home to 9 million, at least 85 people have tested positive as part of a cluster at a Protestant church, the Health Ministry said. Worshippers sang and chanted while sitting close together without wearing proper masks or taking other precautions.
Vietnam has since ordered a nationwide ban on all religious events. In major cities, authorities have banned large gatherings, closed public parks and non-essential business including in-person restaurants, bars, clubs and spas.
Vietnam so far has vaccinated 1 million people with AstraZeneca shots. Last week, it sealed a deal with Pfizer for 30 million doses, which are scheduled to be delivered in the third and fourth quarters of this year. It is also in talks with Moderna that would give it enough shots to fully vaccine 80% of its 96 million people. - AP, AFP