Hybrid of Kent and India Covid variants detected in Vietnam

A new hybrid of the UK and Indian coronavirus variants is thought to have been detected in Vietnam.

The mutated strain was discovered following genetic sequencing on Covid patients, the country’s health officials announced according to local media.  

‘After running gene sequencing on newly detected patients, we have discovered a new variant that is a mix of India and UK ones,’ Vietnamese health minister Nguyen Thanh Long is reported to have said on Saturday.

‘More specifically, it is an Indian variant with mutations that originally belong to the UK variant,’ the minister added.

The discovery of the variant was reported by online Vietnamese newspaper, VnExpress – which claims the country is preparing to make a global announcement about the new strain.

It is said to be much more transmissible than other variants and is particularly contagious by air.

But scientists reportedly said further analysis is needed to determine the effect of the hybrid, the Washington Post reported.

Todd Pollack, a Harvard Medical School infectious diseases expert based in Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, warned: ‘A lot of different mutations happen as the virus is transmitted and most of them are not of clinical significance.

‘Just because they say (the new variant) has features of one and the other … doesn’t mean they got together in one patient and spit out some combined hybrid ‘supervirus,’ he said.

It comes as Vietnam battles a rapidly-spreading outbreak of coronavirus.

Earlier this week government officials tightened lockdown restrictions in the north of the country following a spike in cases.

‘The COVID-19 variant found this time has been spreading very rapidly and widely,’ Nguyen Thanh Long said in a statement on Tuesday – but did not specify which variant he was referring to.

Vietnam has previously reported seven virus variants including the B.1.1.7, first discovered in Kent, and the B.1.617.2 strain which originated in India.

Almost 3,600 people are said to have been infected in 31 out of 63 cities and provinces in the past month – including Hanoi, forcing restaurants to close with public gatherings currently banned.

It has registered 6,396 coronavirus cases in total and 47 deaths.

Meanwhile ‘confusion’ over Britain’s handling of Covid restrictions has been blamed for undermining efforts to control the disease.

The government has got into a ‘pickle’ because it abandoned the ‘data not dates’ principle, said Professor Stephen Reicher, a psychologist on the Sage sub-committee advising ministers on behavioural science.

It comes as fears grow over whether the spread of the Indian variant in England will prevent lockdown restrictions from being fully lifted on June 21.

Experts have warned measures should stay until more people have received two doses of the vaccine.

Boris Johnson said in February how he wants the UK’s exit from lockdown to be ‘cautious but irreversible’.

This Thursday he said he ‘didn’t see anything currently in the data’ to divert from the June reopening target – but warned: ‘But we may need to wait.’

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