New hybrid of Indian and UK Covid strains found in Vietnam – alert over faster spread

Hancock: Three-quarters of new Covid cases are Indian variant

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Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long confirmed the new worrying development on Saturday and said laboratory tests suggested the variant may be more transmissible through the air compared to other versions of the killer virus. Scientists in Vietnam began examining the genetic sequence of the virus following a worrying spike in infections since April.

Mr Long said: “Vietnam has uncovered a new COVID-19 variant combining characteristics of the two existing variants first found in India and the UK.

“That the new one is an Indian variant with mutations that originally belong to the UK variant is very dangerous.”

The UK variant of the virus was first discovered last September in Kent and quickly became the dominant strain around the world.

The Indian strain of coronavirus was first identified in October and plunged India at the epicentre of the global crisis.

Early tests of the variant suggests the virus replicated itself very quickly and health chiefs believe it could be responsible for a sudden rise in cases.

Vietnam had largely contained coronavirus for the past year, but the month of April has accounted for almost half of the 6,856 registered cases and 47 deaths.

Mr Long added medics would soon publish genome data of the newly identified variant.

The Southeast Asian country had previously detected seven virus variants: B.1.222, B.1.619, D614G, B.1.1.7 – known as the UK variant.

As well as the B.1.351, A.23.1 and B.1.617.2 – the “Indian variant”.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has not yet made an assessment of the discovery in Vietnam and previously identified four variants of SARS-CoV-2 of global concern.

These include variants that emerged first in India, Britain, South Africa and Brazil.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Lead for COVID-19 said: “At the present time, we have not yet made an assessment of the virus variant reported in Vietnam.

“Our country office is working with the Ministry of Health in Vietnam and we expect more information soon.”

Vietnam has a population of almost 100 million, but has only received 2.9 million coronavirus vaccines.

Officials are aiming to secure 150 million doses by the end of the year.

The emergence of a new variant could have an impact on lockdown restrictions ending in England on June 21.

The Government outlined four tests which need to be met – including the threat of new variants – in order to progress onto the next stage of the roadmap.


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The data must the show the “assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern”.

Dr Jenny Harries, UK Health Security Agency chief executive, has already cast doubt over restrictions ending next month.

Speaking at a coronavirus briefing from Downing Street on Thursday, Dr Harries said she agreed with imperial College scientist Professor Neil Ferguson that the next stage of the roadmap “hangs in the balance”.

The Prime Minister will outline his plans for the next stage of the roadmap on June 14.
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