Vietnam has discovered a new COVID-19 variant which spreads quickly by air and is a combination of the strains first found in India and Britain, health officials confirmed Saturday.
The country is struggling to deal with fresh outbreaks across more than half of its territory, including industrial zones and big cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
“We have discovered a new hybrid variant from the strains first found in Indian and the UK,” Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long told a national meeting on the pandemic
“The characteristic of this strain is that it spreads quickly in the air. The concentration of virus in the throat fluid increases rapidly and spreads very strongly to the surrounding environment.”
Vietnam’s Central Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology said in a statement that its scientists had detected gene mutations in four out of 32 patient samples through gene sequencing.
The new round of infections has made the public and government fearful and authorities have quickly moved to place strict limits on movement and business activity.
Cafes, restaurants, hair salons and massage parlours as well as tourism and religious spots have been ordered to close in various areas of the country.
Vietnam a country of 97 million people has vaccinated a little over a million citizens.
The country presently has close to two million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine remaining, but said it is buying more than 30 million doses of the Pfizer shot.
In nearby Thailand, the government took exception to media reports in Britain that labelled a new strain causing concern there as the “Thai variant”.
Principally speaking, it should not be called the Thai variant because the infected person is from overseas,” said Opas Kankawinpong, head of Thailand’s disease control department.