A new coronavirus variant has been detected in Vietnam and is considered to be the mutated version of strains found in the United Kingdom and India. On May 29, Nguyen Thanh Long – Health Minister of Vietnam said, “We have discovered a new hybrid variant from the Indian and the UK strains.”
“The fourth wave of Covid-19 in Vietnam included infections in industrial zones, multiple sources of infections, and the presence of various coronavirus variants. It will spread very fast and it will be very difficult to control,” Long said.
The Covid-19 situation is grim in Vietnam. After seeing a slump in cases, suddenly there’s been a steep rise, with the country reporting an average of 290 cases every day since May 25. More than 30 major cities and provinces, including the capital city Hanoi, have reported cases of the new variant.
New restrictions have been introduced throughout the country for 15 days, which came into effect on May 31. The authorities banned all social gathering events, closed all public parks, and non-essential services, including restaurants, clubs, bars, in major cities. All religious events are banned until the next notice.
Source: JHU CSSE COVID-19 Data
What is the Vietnam variant?
After the Central Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Vietnam collected samples from 32 patients for gene sequencing testing of Covid-19, four people were found to be infected with mutated coronavirus variant in the last week of April. In addition to this new variant, there were already seven known variants of Covid-19 in Vietnam, according to the Ministry of Health. B.1.222, B.1.619, D614G, B.1.1.7 – known as the UK variant, B.1.351, A.23.1, and B.1.617.2.
The cause of the sudden rise in the Covid-19 cases is still not clear.
Why is this new variant more dangerous in comparison to others?
Since the last week of April 2021, there has been an increasing number of Covid-19 cases in Vietnam. Professor Tikki Pang, Department of Medicine, National University of Singapore, says, “This virus is hybrid because it seems to have a mutation on spike protein which has been seen both in the U.K. and Indian (B.1.617.2) variant.”
“The idea that it is highly transmissible comes from laboratory studies that the virus replicates much more rapidly in cell cultures in the laboratory. Whether that’s true in a real-life situation, it requires a lot more research and analysis.”
Effect on the throat
Vietnam’s new strain has been observed to have an effect on the throat.
“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,” said Long, Health Minister of Vietnam.
This coronavirus variant is more risky and dangerous for the elderly and for those with comorbidities. The government warned people of its highly infectious nature and its potential to cause more deaths in unvaccinated people.
What is WHO saying?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the new coronavirus variant currently spreading across Vietnam is a variant of global concern. This variant was added to the list of “variants of concern” which also includes strains found in India, Britain, South Africa, and Brazil.
Maria Van Kerkhove, the senior WHO epidemiologist, tweeted: “The variant detected is B.1.617.2 with an additional mutation(s), but more info soon. Remember: variants are constellations of mutations. Many variants of concern have similar mutations.”
Kerkhove said, “We expect that more variants will continue to be detected as the virus circulates and evolves and as sequencing capacities are enhanced worldwide.”
Vaccination in Vietnam
It is unclear whether the existing vaccines are effective against this new variant. Till May 26, only 28,961 people were fully vaccinated which is less than 0.03% of the population in Vietnam. More than 1 million people received the first dose till date.
Vietnam aims to have 150 million doses this year and has already received 2.9 Million doses. As per the Ministry of Health, they are in the process to receive 10 million vaccine doses under the COVAX AMC scheme for lower-middle-income economies. On the other hand, Vietnam is most likely to receive 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and 40 million of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
|Source of Vaccine||Doses of Vaccines to be received|
|COVAX AMC scheme||10 million|
|Pfizer’s vaccine (German)||20 million|
|Russia’s Sputnik V (Russia)||40 million|