Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) – The Vietnamese Ministry of Health has discovered a possible new type of coronavirus and said it appears to be a mixture of two other highly transmissible types.
“A new type of coronavirus with characteristics of current variants from India and the United Kingdom has been detected in Vietnam for the first time,” Vietnamese Health Minister Nguyen Than Luong said at a national press conference on Saturday.
The Southeast Asian country has emerged as an example in containing the virus thanks to a strict early detection strategy for passengers at airports and a strict quarantine and surveillance programme.
But since the end of April, Vietnam has recorded a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases. Nearly half of the 6,396 confirmed cases were reported in the past month, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
It is not clear if the suspected new variant is behind the sudden increase in infection. If so, this may indicate that it is more transmissible.
Fourth wave in Vietnam
The fourth wave of COVID-19 virus in Vietnam included infections in industrial areas, multiple sources of infection, and the presence of different types of coronavirus. “It will spread very quickly and it will be very difficult to control,” the health minister said.
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The World Health Organization said on Saturday that its Virus Evolution Task Force is working with officials in Vietnam to confirm a possible new variant of the coronavirus, after four people were reported to have been infected with a possible new variant.
We have not yet assessed the type of virus that has been reported in Vietnam. “We expect that more variants will continue to be discovered as the virus spreads and evolves and as sequencing capabilities improve around the world,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s chief technical officer for Covid-19, said in a statement.
“From what we understand, the variant they have detected is the variant B.1,617.2 likely with an additional mutation, however we will provide more information once we receive it.”
The B.1,617.2 variant was first detected in India, where officials said this and other variables pushed the country to a spike in Covid-19 cases.
Earlier this month, British health officials identified B1617.2 as a variant of concern due to its rapid spread in the UK.
Worrying variants and worrisome variants of covid-19: Here’s what we know
New restrictions in Vietnam
On Sunday, the government announced restrictions on social distancing in Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s largest and most populous urban area, according to Reuters news agency.
The new measures, effective for two weeks from Monday, include the closure of non-essential services, such as shops and restaurants, and the suspension of religious activities.
Quoting a government statement, Reuters reported that Ho Chi Minh City has seen a rise in cases linked to a religious mission that has recorded at least 125 positive tests, which accounts for the majority of infections in the city.
Public gatherings of more than 10 people have also been banned, and the city is considering halving that number, according to Reuters.
Last week, Vietnam expanded lockdown measures in its industrial north after the country saw the biggest jump in Covid-19 cases, fueled by clusters in factory districts in Bac Ninh and Bac Giang provinces, Reuters reported.
The outbreak has spread to more than 30 cities and provinces out of 63 in Vietnam, including the capital, Hanoi, which has closed restaurants and banned public gatherings.
In a country of more than 96 million people, fewer than 30,000 (0.03%) have been vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The Ministry of Health is working to secure 10 million doses of vaccines under the Covax cost-sharing scheme, in addition to another 20 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer and 40 million doses from Russia’s Sputnik V, according to Reuters.
Reuters reports that Vietnam has so far received 2.9 million doses and aims to secure 150 million doses this year.
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