Vietnam has discovered a new variant of Covid-19 that spreads quickly by air and is a combination of the Indian and British strains, state media reported on Saturday.
The country is struggling to cope with new epidemics in more than half of its territory, including industrial areas and major cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
More than 6,700 cases, including 47 deaths, have been reported in Vietnam – the lion’s share has occurred since April.
“We have discovered a new hybrid variant of the Indian and British strains,” Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said at a national meeting on the pandemic on Saturday.
“The hallmark of this strain is that it spreads quickly through the air. The concentration of virus in throat fluid increases rapidly and spreads very strongly in the surrounding environment. “
He did not specify the number of cases recorded with this new variant but said Vietnam will soon announce the discovery on the world map of genetic strains.
There were seven known coronavirus variants in Vietnam before Long’s announcement, according to the Department of Health.
The communist country has already received widespread applause for its aggressive response to the pandemic, with mass quarantines and strict contact tracing helping to keep infection rates relatively low.
The new round of infections made the public and the government fearful, and authorities moved quickly to place strict limits on travel and business activities.
Cafes, restaurants, hairdressers and massage parlors as well as tourist and religious sites have been ordered to close in various parts of the country.
Vietnam – a country of 97 million people – has vaccinated just over a million citizens.
He is now stepping up his jab deployment and hopes to achieve collective immunity by the end of the year, according to the health minister.
Authorities have called on individuals and businesses to donate money to help procure vaccines, while embassies and international organizations have been contacted for help, state media reported.
The country currently has nearly two million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but said it purchases more than 30 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
He is also in talks with Russia to produce Sputnik V, according to state media, and is working on a local vaccine.
© 2021 AFP