New hybrid variant of Covid-19 found in Vietnam

Vietnam, often cited as an example of containment of the new coronavirus, has been facing an exponential increase in the number of cases of the disease. According to data from the Johns Hopkins University there were 47 deaths and 6,396 cases registered in the country until May – half of them in the last month.

The fourth wave has increased Covid-19 cases in 30 of Vietnam’s 63 cities and provinces and may be related to a new strain identified in the country – possibly a hybrid of Indian and British strains.

Cyclists in urban area of ​​Vietnam.Source:  Pixabay

The country’s Health Minister, Nguyen Thanh Long, warned of the new mutation in a statement. “Vietnam has discovered a new Covid-19 variant that combines features of the two existing ones first found in India and the UK. She is very dangerous,” he said. And he stated that the concentration of virus in the throat and saliva increases rapidly and spreads with great force to the surrounding environment.

So far, the new variant has been identified in laboratory tests on four patients. The country has seen the number of infections grow mainly in its northern industrial zone, in Ho Chi Minh City and the capital, Hanoi. To try to stop the transmission of the virus, Vietnam has determined lockdown two weeks, starting this Monday. Restaurants and shopping malls will be closed and religious activities are suspended. Meetings must bring together a maximum of ten people.

What is known about the new variant

New variant will be studied in the laboratory to identify changes and origin.New variant will be studied in the laboratory to identify changes and origin.Source:  Martin Lopez/Pexels

The suspicion after the first tests in the country is that the Indian variant B.1.617.2 has acquired a mutation similar to the British one, which made it possibly more transmissible. New results should be presented soon. The World Health Organization – WHO sent a group of officials to Vietnam to investigate the new strain. According to the organization, four already known variants (Indian, British, South African and Brazilian) generate great global concern.

For microbiologist Luiz Gustavo de Almeida, a researcher at the University of São Paulo – USP and at the Instituto Questão de Ciência, the mutation of the strain first identified in India shows an improvement in the virus’ ability to infect human beings. According to Almeida, in an interview with CNN, the variant detected in Vietnam is the virus of the Indian strain that has mutated and became similar to the one in the United Kingdom – and not a combination of the variants in India and the United Kingdom.

“It’s not that one strain joined with another, viruses are independent,” explained the expert. “What happened in Vietnam is that the Indian strain circulated there and acquired a mutation similar to the UK variant, a same mutation that has been identified in different parts of the globe,” he said. According to Almeida, the fact is cause for concern because it is a strong indication that the virus has an adaptive advantage, “increasingly liking its new host, the human being”, he said.

Almeida highlighted that, regardless of the emergence of new variants of the new coronavirus, the forms of prevention follow the same: use of mask, social distance and hand hygiene.

Inefficient vaccination

A new strain of coronavirus from the Asian country worries about being potentially more infectious. A new strain of coronavirus from the Asian country worries about being potentially more infectious. Source:  Freepik

Vietnam has an almost non-existent number of vaccinated people: so far 30,000 people have received the immunizing agent in the country, which corresponds to only 0.03% of the population. The Ministry of Health is seeking to guarantee 10 million doses of vaccine with the COVAX consortium, 20 million doses of the immunizing agent from Pfizer and 40 million from Sputnik V, in Russia, according to the Reuters news agency. So far, the country has received 2.9 million doses and intends to guarantee 150 million still in 2021.

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