Vietnam detects hybrid of Indian and UK COVID-19 variant

Health and local officials inspect a restaurant in Hanoi. Nhac NGUYEN / AFP

Vietnam health minister Nguyen Thanh Long said on Saturday the country has detected a new variant of the coronavirus, which is a mix of the Indian and UK COVID-19 variants and spreads quickly through air, online newspaper VnExpress reported.

After successfully containing the coronavirus for most of last year, Vietnam is now battling an outbreak that is spreading more quickly.

Nearly 3,600 people have been infected in 31 of its 63 cities and provinces since late April, accounting for more than half of the country's total infections.

"After running gene sequencing on newly detected patients, we have discovered a new variant that is a mix of India and UK ones," Nguyen Thanh Long was quoted as saying.

"More specifically, it is an Indian variant with mutations that originally belong to the UK variant," he said. VnExpress quoted Long as saying Vietnam would announce the newly discovered variant to the world soon.

Vietnam had previously reported seven virus variants: B.1.222, B.1.619, D614G, B.1.1.7 (the UK variant), B.1.351, A.23.1 and B.1.617.2 (the Indian variant).

Laboratory cultures of the new variant, which is much more transmissable than the previously known types, revealed that the virus replicated itself very quickly, explaining why so many new cases appeared in different locations in a short period, Long was quoted as saying.

The Southeast Asian country has registered 6,396 coronavirus cases so far, with 47 deaths.

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