A HYBRID of the Indian and UK variants of Covid has been detected amid growing fears new strains could delay the lifting of lockdown in the UK.
Vietnam's health minister Nguyen Thanh Long announced today the country had detected the new hybrid variant which is reportedly spread rapidly through the air.
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Scientists reported lab tests show the new Covid variant is much more transmissible than the previous types and replicates very quickly, according to Reuters.
The hybrid also managed appear in many different locations in a short period – fueling fears of how quickly it can spread.
After managed to successfully contain the first and second waves of the virus, Vietnam is now facing a fast moving outbreak.
Its total cases have more than doubled in less than a month, jumping from 2,942 on May 1 to6,570 as of Friday.
Vietnam had also not recorded a Covid death since September until May 16, but so far ten people have died of the virus in the last two weeks.
Infections have been reported in 31 of its 63 cities and provinces, and it was already battling seven variants before the emergence of the suspected hybrid.
Mr Long told VnExpress: "After running gene sequencing on newly detected patients, we have discovered a new variant that is a mix of India and UK ones.
He added: "More specifically, it is an Indian variant with mutations that originally belong to the UK variant."
The health minister added the hybrid variant will be formally announced to the world soon.
New variants are believed to pose a major threat countries – including Britain – finally emerging from lockdown amid fears they could sidestep current vaccines.
Professor Neil Ferguson, dubbed Prof Lockdown, previously said mutant strains could prevent the Government’s roadmap from going ahead as planned if it is more transmissible than previous variants.
The scientist was speaking as the Indian variant continues to surge in the UK.
He added that it could be another “two to three weeks” before it is clear whether the final step in lifting the lockdown can safely go ahead on June 21.
Meanwhile, Professor Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge, has warned we could now see “super mutant viruses” emerge.
He said that while this would not necessarily be a bad thing, the virus would try to become more efficient at transmission as more people are protected.
He added that coronavirus is unpredictable and we should not be overconfident at any stage.
Asked about how to prepare for future variants, Prof Gupta told a press briefing: “I think that we have good vaccines, now we need to keep the pressure on vaccine designers, manufacturers to adapt vaccines.”
He added: “Secondly, the virus is going to do some weird things. I mean, this is just the beginning.
“I think it’s going to recombine, you’re going to get super mutant viruses, I believe."
Prof Gupta said that as vaccine coverage increases, for most people who get Covid-19 it will be a mild illness, even with the “super variants”, but there will always be some vulnerable people.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said the next week will be "crucial" as trusts analyse Indian variant data closely.
He said hospitals in Indian variant hotspots were seeing cases rise steadily and not at "an alarming rate".
Mr Hopson said: "The next seven days will be crucial, and trusts will be monitoring the data closely."
Ministers have been hopeful the UK remains on course to reopen on June 21- but its believed face masks and home working will stay if cases continue to rise, with the daily total hitting 4,182 on Friday.
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