• Reuters

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Vietnam health minister Nguyen Thanh Long said on Saturday the country has detected a new variant of the coronavirus, a mix of the Indian and U.K. COVID-19 variants that spreads quickly by air, online newspaper VnExpress reported.

After successfully containing the coronavirus for most of last year, Vietnam is now battling a growing outbreak.

Nearly 3,600 people have been infected in 31 of its 63 cities and provinces since late April, accounting for more than half of the country’s total infections.

“After running gene sequencing on newly detected patients, we have discovered a new variant that is a mix of India and U.K. ones,” Nguyen Thanh Long was quoted as saying.

“More specifically, it is an Indian variant with mutations that originally belong to the U.K. variant,” he said. VnExpress quoted Long as saying Vietnam would announce the newly discovered variant to the world soon.

Vietnam had previously reported seven virus variants: B.1.222, B.1.619, D614G, B.1.1.7 (the U.K. variant), B.1.351, A.23.1 and B.1.617.2 (the Indian variant).

Laboratory cultures of the new variant, which is much more transmissible than the previously known types, revealed that the virus replicated itself very quickly, explaining why so many new cases appeared in different locations in a short period, Long was quoted as saying.

The Southeast Asian country has registered 6,396 coronavirus cases so far, with 47 deaths.

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