Vietnam’s health ministry has detected a suspected new coronavirus variant which it said appears to be a hybrid of two highly transmissible strains, Reuters reports.
“A new coronavirus variant with characteristics from the existing Indian and UK variants had been detected in Vietnam for the first time,” Vietnam’s Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long told a national news conference Saturday.
Thanks to an aggressive strategy for early passenger detection at the airport and a strict quarantine and monitoring plan, this Southeast Asian country is considered a leading model for containing the virus.
However, since the end of April, Vietnam has reported a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, nearly half of the 6,396 confirmed infections have been reported in the past month alone. It is not clear if the new suspected variant is the cause of the sudden increase in infections. If so, it may indicate that it is more widespread.
“The fourth wave of Covid-19 in Vietnam included infections in industrial zones, multiple sources of infections and the presence of various coronavirus variants. It will spread very fast and it will be very difficult to control,” the health minister said.
The World Health Organization said on Saturday that its virus evolution task force is working with Vietnamese officials to confirm that the coronavirus may be a new variant after confirming that the four people were confirmed to have been infected with the new suspicious strain.
Health workers collect swab samples to test for Covid-19 at the Thanh Xuan district medical centre in Hanoi on May 15.
“We have not yet made an assessment of the virus variant reported in Vietnam. We expect that more variants will continue to be detected as the virus circulates and evolves and as sequencing capacities are enhanced worldwide,” said WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19 Maria Van Kerkhove in a statement.
“From what we understand, the variant they detected is the B.1.617.2 variant possibly with an additional mutation, however we will provide more information as soon as we receive it.”