Vietnam has discovered a new COVID-19 variant that is a hybrid of the strains first identified in India and the United Kingdom, Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long announced on May 29.
The new variant could be responsible for the recent spike in the Southeast Asian country as laboratory tests suggested that it could spread quickly by air, Long said, warning that it was “very dangerous.”
“At the present time, we have not yet made an assessment of the virus variant reported in Vietnam,” World Health Organization (WHO) Technical Lead for COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove said.
Kerkhove said that WHO is working with the Vietnamese health ministry to “properly assess” the new variant.
According to Long, scientists detected the new variant when they examined the genetic makeup of the virus in some newly infected patients.
The new variant becomes the eighth variant detected in Vietnam since it reported its first COVID-19 case in January 2020.
Long also said that the virus has spread to 30 out of the 63 municipalities and provinces in the country.
Authorities in Ho Chi Minh, the country’s main business hub which has a population of nine million, imposed physical distancing measures for 15 days, starting on May 31, after reporting at least 125 new cases linked to a Protestant mission.
The health ministry said that participants of the religious mission did not wear masks and did not observe other precautionary health measures.
Vietnam has since imposed a nationwide ban on all religious events.
Ho Chi Minh authorities also banned gatherings of 10 people and restricted travel from pandemic-hit areas to other localities.
Other major cities have also banned large gatherings and closed non-essential businesses.
Vietnam reported 61 new cases on May 31, bringing the total to 7,168 cases, according to government data.
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