The health minister on Saturday informed that authorities in Vietnam have detected a new coronavirus variant that is a combination of the Indian and UK Covid-19 variants and spreads quickly by air.
Vietnam is grappling a spike in coronavirus infections since late April that accounts for more than half of the total 6,856 registered cases, after successfully containing the virus for most of last year. So far, there have been 47 deaths.
Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long describing it as a hybrid of the two known variants said that, “Vietnam has uncovered a new Covid-19 variant combining characteristics of the two existing variants first found in India and the UK.”
He told a government meeting, a recording of which was obtained by Reuters, “That the new one is an Indian variant with mutations that originally belong to the UK variant is very dangerous.”
The Southeast 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 “Indian variant”.
Soon a genome data of the newly identified variant will be published by Vietnam said Long. He said it was more transmissible than the previously known types.
“At the present time, we have not yet made an assessment of the virus variant reported in Vietnam,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Lead 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.”
However, four variants of SARS-CoV-2 of global concern have been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO), which includes variants that emerged first in India, Britain, South Africa and Brazil.
From the WHO’s current understanding, the variant detected in Vietnam was the B.1.617.2 variant, 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.
Laboratory tests of the new variant displayed that the virus simulated itself very quickly, possibly explaining why so many new cases had appeared in different parts of the country in a short period of time, said Long.
The government was working to secure 10 million vaccine doses under the COVAX cost-sharing scheme, as well as a further 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and 40 million of Russia’s Sputnik V was decided said the health ministry in a meeting with the government.
The country of about 98 million people has so far received 2.9 million doses and aims to secure 150 million this year.