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May 01, 2021 / 17:45

Indian coronavirus strain found in Vietnam

This is the first time the mutation of the coronavirus, also known as B.1.167, has been recorded in Vietnam.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Health (MoH) said on April 30 that four Indian experts and a Vietnamese man working at a hotel where they were quarantined have been infected with the Indian variant of the coronavirus.

This is the first time the mutation of the coronavirus, also known as B.1.167, has been recorded in Vietnam, following genetic sequencing of the patients' samples by the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.

 Deputy Minister of Health Tran Van Thuan stands in front of the quarantine area in northern province of Yen Bai, where the first Indian variant of the coronavirus has been recorded in Vietnam. Photo: MoH

The Vietnamese man was a receptionist at Nhu Nguyet 2 hotel in the northern province of Yen Bai. The 63-year-old man made contact with the group of Indian experts as they came to the hotel on April 18 for quarantine. Among 11 Indians, four had been confirmed as Covid-19 cases.

The B.1.617 strain contains two key mutations called E484Q and L452R, which have been found separately in other variants but not together in a single strain. These mutations have been shown to make the virus more transmissible and be less susceptible to neutralizing antibodies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said the predominant lineage of B.1.617 was first identified in India last December, although an earlier version was spotted in October 2020.

WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyesus described it as a "variant of interest", suggesting it may have mutations that would make the virus more transmissible, causing more severe disease or evade vaccine immunity.

B.1.617 has been found in at least 17 countries, WHO said, adding that apart from India, the double mutant strain was majorly found in the United Kingdom, USA, and Singapore.

WHO said that globally, new Covid-19 cases increased for the ninth consecutive week, with nearly 5.7 million new cases reported in the last week. India accounts for 38% of the global cases reported during the period, it added.

Previously, the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City found that nearly 86% of imported positive cases from Cambodia carry the B1.1.7 variant (first detected in the UK), and over 14% the B.1.351 variant (South Africa). Vietnam has recorded almost all kinds of new coronavirus variants.

After over a month of no community transmissions, the country has recorded 13 new local cases since Thursday, starting with a migrant worker returning from Japan who tested positive two days after finishing his two-week quarantine.