After successfully containing the COVID virus for most of past year, Vietnam is now confronting a rampaging strain feared to be the most infections yet to emerge.
Authorities have identified the strain as a combination of the Indian and UK COVID-19 variants, saying it spreads quickly by air.
The spike in infections first became noticeable in late April and has now accounted for more than half of the country’s total of 6713 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 in a statement on Saturday.
“The new variant is very dangerous,” he added.
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”.
Online newspaper VnExpress said Long had described the new variant as a hybrid of the Indian and UK variants.
“The new one is an Indian variant with mutations that originally belong to the UK variant,” Long was quoted as saying, adding that authorities would soon announce the name and detailed characteristics of the newly discovered variant.
Much more transmissible defea
The World Health Organisation has identified four variants of SARS-CoV-2 as being of global concern. These include variants that emerged first in India, in Britain, in South Africa and Brazil.
Officials at the WHO did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the new Vietnamese variant.
Laboratory cultures of the new variant, which is much more transmissible than the previously known types, revealed that the virus replicated itself very quickly, Long said.
He said that could explain why so many new cases had appeared in different parts of the country within a short period of time.