This year, a number of countries that had previously triumphed over the deadly virus have been falling victim to new strains and variants. Up until early May, Vietnam had around 3,100 total cases and 35 deaths. However, that number has since doubled. The country reported 3,500 new cases and 12 deaths in the past few weeks alone. The reason behind the spike is suspected to be a brand new variant that has been confirmed in four COVID patients so far.
Initial research has revealed that this new mutation is showing characteristics of both the Indian and Kent variant. Vietnam’s Minister of Health, Nguyen Thanh Long said in a national news conference:
A new coronavirus variant with characteristics from the existing Indian and UK variants had been detected in Vietnam for the first time.
That the new one is an Indian variant with mutations that originally belong to the UK variant is very dangerous.
According to Mr. Long, this variant has already spread to 30 of Vietnam’s 63 municipalities, raising concerns that it is more transmissible than other strains. Whether or not this variant is behind the fourth wave in Vietnam is still unclear, but the surge is proving to be a huge challenge for the Vietnamese government. The Health Minister added:
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.
Sub-variant of Indian mutation
The World Health Organisation’s Virus Evolution Working Group is now collaborating with officials in Vietnam to find out more about this new strain, but there is no doubt that it is a sub-variant of the Indian mutation. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for COVID said in a statement:
From what we understand, the variant they detected is the B.1.617.2 variant possibly with an additional mutation, however we will provide more information as soon as we receive it.
As the pandemic continues to brew, WHO anticipates that many more variants will develop in the future. Kerkhove stated:
We have not yet made an assessment of the virus variant reported in Vietnam. We expect that more variants will continue to be detected as the virus circulates and evolves and as sequencing capacities are enhanced worldwide.