Vietnam has imposed tougher restrictions in its major cities as the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed a “combination” of the Indian and British variants of COVID-19 had been found in the country.
Incoming international flights to Vietnamese capital Hanoi will be suspended for a week from Tuesday.
And 15 days of tougher lockdown measures have begun in Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s largest metropolis, including bans on dining in restaurants and public gatherings of more than 10 people.
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There are also plans to test all nine million peope in Ho Chi Minh City with 100,000 tests to be conducted a day, according to state media.
After successfully containing coronavirus outbreaks for most of last year, Vietnam is seeing infections rise sharply and has detected several highly transmissible variants.
The country, which has a population of 98 million people, has recorded little more than 7,000 cases so far with 47 deaths reported overall, according to Johns Hopkins University, one of the lowest totals in the world.
Just over one million vaccine doses have been given out in Vietnam, with only about 29,000 people having been fully vaccinated.
And the new outbreak has now reached 34 of the country’s 63 provinces.
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The WHO representative in Vietnam said on Monday that the “combination” announced by local authorities at the weekend was the Indian variant of the virus with a mutation that had been found in the British variant.
The WHO said that among some 32 samples from people infected people with the Indian variant in clusters in northern Vietnam, four had a Y144 deletion mutation in the spike protein.
This is a feature of the B117 variant, which was first discovered in the UK and has become known as the Kent variant.
“Virus mutations are to be expected,” said the WHO’s Dr Kidong Park.
“WHO Vietnam is working with our national counterparts to monitor this new mutation and support investigation as needed.”
On Saturday, Vietnam’s health minister Nguyen Thanh Long said the hybrid of the India and British variants might spread more easily and could be responsible for Vietnam’s recent surge in cases.
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