The World Health Organization has identified four COVID-19 variants of global concern.
Vietnam met success in containing the coronavirus last year. But, as the number of COVID-19 variants continues to increase, the Southeast Asian country now faces “a sharp increase” in cases since late April.
Amid the region’s fight against its fourth wave of the pandemic, the country’s health ministry has detected a new variant, which they believe to be a “hybrid” of two highly transmissible strains. On Saturday, Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long released the details of the matter in a national news conference, according to CNN.
A hybrid of India and U.K. COVID-19 variants in Vietnam
The health official said that they detected similarities in terms of the characteristics from the existing Indian and U.K. COVID-19 variants. This reportedly led him to describe it as a “hybrid” of the known strains.
Nguyen Thanh Long also noted that the detection last week was the first time in Vietnam. It remains unclear, though, whether the suspected hybrid is the one causing the sudden rise of infections and transmissions. If it is, this likely reportedly suggests that the new variant “is more transmissible.”
WHO expects more detection of new variants
Following the emergence of the news, the World Health Organization stated that their country office is working with Vietnam’s Ministry of Health to confirm the newly detected COVID-19 variant. The organization’s technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove also noted that they have to make an assessment, according to Reuters.
She pointed out, though, that the World Health Organization has an understanding that the variant detected in Vietnam was the Indian strain, B.1.617.2. She consequently explained that it likely comes with an additional mutation.
Whatever the case, though, Van Kerkhove said that they will “provide more information” as soon as they obtain it. Likewise, Vietnam’s Health Minister also assured that the country will “soon publish genome data.”
Current status in Vietnam
A separate report from Reuters said that the local government announced social distancing restrictions for Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday. It will last for two weeks starting on Monday.
The new measures include the closure of non-essential stores, such as restaurants and shops. Also, suspension of religious activities is now in place.
Vietnam has reported 61 new cases across the country. Prior to the suspected hybrid, officials had previously detected seven COVID-19 variants. These include B.1.1.7 (U.K.), B.1.617.2 (India), B.1.222, B.1.619, B.1.351, A.23.1, and D614G.
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