SARS-CoV-2 virus strain in Tan Son Nhat Airport first detected in Southeast Asia

The SASR-CoV-2 virus strain detected in patients who are staff at the Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport appears for the first time in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
February 13, 2021 | 09:28
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On the afternoon of February 12, doctor Nguyen Van Vinh Chau, Director of the HCM City-based Hospital for Tropical Diseases said that the hospital had just sent a quick report to the Department of Health of Ho Chi Minh City and the Department of Preventive Medicine on genetic analysis of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to Vietnamnet.

Accordingly, the virus strain found in Tan Son Nhat airport staff is the strain that has appeared in Vietnam and Southeast Asia for the first time.

The results of genetic analysis of the virus samples collected from three patients at Tan Son Nhat airport have a similarity of over 99.95%. Patients at the airport are likely to catch the virus from the same source.

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Taking samples for COVID-testing. Photo: VOV

The genetic analysis showed that the SARS-CoV-2 variant is A.23.1, which was first found in the African country of Rwanda in late October 2020.

This variant has just been found in a few other countries around the world such as the US, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Australia, several countries in Europe including the UK and Denmark. However, no abnormal developments have been reported in those countries.

The SARS-CoV-2 variant found in the patients at Tan Son Nhat International Airport is not the one found in the UK with high infection speed (B.1.1.7) or the one detected in South Africa.

The report was provided by the Research Team of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases - Oxford University Clinical Research Unit.

Earlier, epidemiologists believed the coronavirus hotspot at Tan Son Nhat airport was not tied to the country’s biggest hotspot in Hai Duong province, northern Vietnam.

HCM City has confirmed more than 30 community cases since the virus recurred in Vietnam two weeks ago.

HCMC administration shut down non-essential services such as bars, karaoke parlors, cinemas and discotheques, and banned religious events to stem the Covid-19 spread.

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Taking samples of staff at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City for COVID-19 testing.

Photo: VNA

Local residents have been requested to wear face masks in public spaces, wash hands, keep a safe distance, avoid crowds, and declare health status.

Previously, a new and more contagious variant of COVID-19 from the UK was also found in patients in the northern provinces of Hai Duong and Quang Ninh, according to the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.

Eleven out of the 16 samples tested by scientists from the institute has 17 signature mutations of the super-spreader B.1.1.7 strain that was first discovered in the UK in December 2020, said Vietnamplus.

The new virus strain is said to spread more quickly than previous variants of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. It has caused a surge in the number of COVID-19 infections in the UK as well as other European countries. The variant has been present in 60 countries worldwide as of January 17.

In the past 12 hours to 6 pm on February 12, Vietnam recorded two more cases of COVID-19, according to the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control.

The new cases, in Bac Ninh province and Hanoi, were detected while undergoing quarantine, the committee said. This brings the national count to 2,142, with 1,248 cases of domestic infection, and the new cases found since January 27 to 555.

The total number of recoveries is 1,531, and the death toll stays at 35, Nhan Dan Newspaper reported.

Among those still under treatment, 39 have tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 once, 12 twice and nine thrice.

There are 129,098 people who had close contact with COVID-19 patients or came from pandemic-hit areas now under quarantine.

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