Vietnam discovers a new Covid-19 strain, a hybrid of Indian and British varieties

Vietnam has discovered a new coronavirus variant that is a hybrid of species first found in India and the UK, the Vietnamese health minister said Saturday.

Nguyen Thanh Long said scientists have examined the genetic makeup of the virus that infected some recent patients and found the new version of the virus. He said lab tests suggested it might spread more easily than other versions of the virus.

Viruses often develop minor genetic changes as they reproduce, and new variants of the coronavirus have been seen almost since it was first discovered in China in late 2019. The World Health Organization has listed four global ‘variants of concern’ – the two that are first. found in the UK and India, plus those identified in South Africa and Brazil.

Long says the new variant could be responsible for a recent wave in Vietnam, which has spread to 30 of the country’s 63 municipalities and provinces.

Vietnam was initially a striking success in the fight against the virus – by the beginning of May, it had recorded just over 3,100 confirmed cases and 35 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

But in recent weeks, Vietnam has confirmed more than 3,500 new cases and 12 deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 47.

Most of the new transmissions were found in Bac Ninh and Bac Giang, two provinces 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 found that one fifth of its 4,800 employees 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 in a Protestant church, the health ministry said. Worshipers sang and sang while sitting close to each other without wearing proper masks or taking other precautions.

Vietnam has since enacted a nationwide ban on all religious events. In major cities, authorities have banned large gatherings, closed public parks and non-essentials, including personal restaurants, bars, clubs and spas.

Vietnam has vaccinated 1 million people with AstraZeneca injections so far. Last week, it struck a deal with Pfizer for 30 million doses, scheduled to be delivered in the third and fourth quarters of this year. It’s also in talks with Moderna that it would give enough injections to fully vaccinate 80% of its 96 million people.

(AP)

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