Vietnam detects new UK-Indian variant, health officials say

Vietnam has detected a coronavirus variant that appears to be a combination of the Indian and UK version and can spread quickly by air, officials say.

Vietnam’s Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long stated the latest mutation on Saturday as “very dangerous”. Viruses mutate all the time and most variants of covid-19 are inconsequential, but some can make a virus more contagious. Since coronavirus was first identified in January 2020, thousands of mutations have been detected.

“Vietnam has witnessed a new Covid-19 variant combining characteristics of the two existing variants first found in India and the UK,” Mr. Nguyen Long told a government meeting, according to Reuters news agency.

Mr. Nguyen Long said the new hybrid variant of covid-19 was more transmissible than previously known variants, especially in the air. He said it was discovered after running tests on newly-detected covid-19 patients, online newspaper VnExpress reported.

The variant of coronavirus first identified in India last October – called B.1.617.2 – is more transmissible than the UK/Kent variant – also known as B.1.1.7.

Research suggests that covid-19 vaccines, such as the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs, are highly effective against the Indian variant after two doses, but protection from one dose of vaccine appears to be reduced. There is no evidence that any mutations of the covid-19 cause much more serious illness for the vast majority of people. As with the original version, the risk remains highest for people who are elderly or have significant underlying health conditions.

But a virus being more infectious and equally, life-threatening, will in itself lead to more deaths in an unvaccinated population. Vietnam has seen a spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks. The country has registered more than 6,700 covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. Of those, more than half have been recorded since late April this year. Vietnam has also recorded 47 Covid-related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

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