ECONOMY

Vietnam detects new strain thought to be a hybrid of Indian and UK COVID-19 variants

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uthorities in Vietnam have detected a new coronavirus variant that is a combination of the Indian and UKCOVID-19 variants and spreads quickly by air, the health minister said on Saturday.

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,” Health Minister 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.

Long said Vietnam would soon publish genome data of the newly identified variant, which he said was more transmissible than the previously known types.

AFP via Getty Images

Officials at the WHO did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the variant identified in Vietnam.

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 10 million vaccine doses under the COVAX cost-sharing scheme, as well as a further 20 million doses of Pfizer’s (PFE.N) vaccine and 40 million of Russia’s Sputnik V.

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