What We Know About Vietnam's New COVID-19 Variant

A new, "dangerous" COVID-19 variant has emerged in Vietnam that is a hybrid combination of strains from India and the U.K., the country's health minister said Saturday.

Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said that the new variant is more transmissible than those previously known and its genome data will be published soon, according to Reuters.

"Vietnam has uncovered a new COVID-19 variant combining characteristics of the two existing variants first found in India and the U.K. That the new one is an Indian variant with mutations that originally belong to the U.K. variant is very dangerous," Long said during a government meeting, according to Reuters.

Long said that at least four people carry the new variant after it was discovered by genetic sequencing testing by the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, according to the online newspaper VnExpress.

So far, Vietnam has detected seven virus variants including B.1.1.7, the U.K. variant and B.1.617.2, India's variant, according to Reuters.

Four variants of concern are listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) that include those that first emerged from India and the U.K. as well as South Africa and Brazil.

"We expect that more variants will continue to be detected as the virus circulates and evolves and as sequencing capacities are enhanced worldwide," Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's Technical Lead for COVID-19 tweeted Sunday in a thread.

She added that the WHO's Vietnam office is working with the country's Ministry of Health and said that "the variant detected is B.1.617.2 with an additional mutation," which is India's variant.

Re the report of variant from Vietnam: @WHO 🇻🇳 country office & @WHOWPRO are working w MOH 🇻🇳. The variant detected is B.1.617.2 with an additional mutation(s), but more info soon.

Remember: variants are constellations of mutations. Many VOI/VOC have similar mutations

— Maria Van Kerkhove (@mvankerkhove) May 30, 2021

"As we have said, each variant identified needs to be properly assessed, which is why WHO established the Virus Evolution Working Group in June 2020," she also said in the thread.

Previously, Van Kerkhove wrote in an emailed statement to Reuters that "at the present time, we have not yet made an assessment of the virus variant reported in Vietnam. Our country office is working with the Ministry of Health in Vietnam and we expect more information soon."

The WHO reiterated Van Kerkhove's statements already made in emailed statements to Newsweek and said that more information on the new variant will be provided as soon as they receive it.

"WHO continues to work with country and technical partners around the world to better understand more about any variants that are detected," Van Kerkhove said.

Vietnam has experienced a new surge in COVID-19 infections and Long said that the new variant could be why, according to the Associated Press.

The country was previously successful in combating the virus with just over 3,100 cases and 35 deaths in early May since the pandemic began.

However, Vietnam has seen 12 deaths and more than 3,500 cases over the last few weeks with a total death toll of 47.

Out of Vietnam's population of 96 million, 1 million people have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to the Associated Press.

Updated 5:15 p.m. ET, to include an additional comment from the WHO.

Man Wearing a Mask in Vietnam
A local security officer disinfects his hands in Quan Su pagoda in front of a monk illustration wearing a face mask in Hanoi on May 26, 2021, as Buddhists celebrated Vesak Day, or Buddha Day while places of worship remains closed to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Vietnam's health minister said a new COVID-19 variant has been detected in the country. Nhac Nguyen/AFP via Getty Images