Vietnam Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long on Saturday announced that authorities in the Southeast Asian country have detected a new coronavirus variant that is a combination of the strains first identified in India and the United Kingdom, Reuters reported. He warned that the new variant was more transmissible than the previously known ones and spreads faster by air.
The B.1.617 variant that was first detected in India in October has since spread to dozens of countries. The World Health Organization on May 10 said it has been classified as a “variant of global concern”. The B.1.1.7 variant, first reported in the UK, is also included in the list.
“That the new one is an Indian variant with mutations that originally belong to the UK variant is very dangerous,” Long said at a government meeting, according to Reuters.
The health minister said laboratory cultures of the new variant had shown that the virus replicated itself at a fast pace, possibly fueling a recent wave of infections in the country. Long said Vietnam will soon publish the genome sequencing data of the “hybrid” variant.
Vietnam, which has so far reported a total 6,856 coronavirus cases and 47 deaths, had successfully contained the infection for most part of the last year. However, cases have been rising since late April. There were seven known coronavirus strains in the country before Long’s announcement on Saturday, Reuters reported.