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Vietnam Detects New Highly Transmissible Coronavirus Variant

Vietnam has detected a new coronavirus variant that is highly transmissible and has features of two other strains.

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

The announcement came on Saturday as the country is dealing with a recent spike of infections that started in May.

Long says the new variant might be responsible for the latest surge, according to the AP.

The new variant is more transmissible in the air and Long says scientists observed the variant's ability to replicate quickly in lab cultures, according to VnExpress.

Seven other coronavirus variants had been detected in the country prior to Saturday's announcement. The latest variant does not have a name yet, but the ministry of health plans to publish genome data of it.

Since the pandemic began, Vietnam has reported 6,713 cases and 47 deaths as of Saturday. A little more than half of the cases and 12 of the deaths were reported in the last month, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

A majority of the latest cases reported came from the Bac Ninh and Bac Giang provinces, both of which have a large industrial presence. Hundreds of thousands of people work there to manufacture goods for big tech companies including Samsung, Canon and Apple.

Early on in the pandemic, Vietnam was praised for low case numbers and deaths. The country's aggressive social distancing policies and experience with prior epidemics were seen as effective measures in stopping the spread.

But since cases as increasing again, restrictions have been put in place again. All religious events are banned nationwide, and authorities in major cities have closed public parks and nonessential businesses to help stop large gatherings, according to the AP.

Nearly 29,000 people or .03% of the country has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

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Wynne Davis is a digital reporter and producer for NPR's All Things Considered.