HANOI, Vietnam – Vietnam has discovered a new coronavirus variant that's a hybrid of strains first found in India and the U.K., the Vietnamese health minister said Saturday.
Nguyen Thanh Long said scientists examined the genetic makeup of the virus that had infected some recent patients, and found the new version of the virus. He said lab tests suggested it might spread more easily than other versions of the virus.
Viruses often develop small genetic changes as they reproduce, and variants of the coronavirus have been seen almost since it was detected in China in late 2019. The World Health Organization has listed four global “variants of concern” – the two first found in the U.K. and India, plus ones identified in South Africa and Brazil.
Long says the new variant could be responsible for a recent surge in Vietnam, which has spread to 30 of the country's 63 municipalities and provinces.
Neighborhood in China shut down
The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou shut down a neighborhood and ordered its residents to stay home Saturday for door-to-door coronavirus testing following an upsurge in infections.
Guangzhou, a business and industrial center of 15 million people north of Hong Kong, has reported 20 new infections over the past week. The number is small compared with India's thousands of daily cases but has alarmed Chinese authorities who believed they had the disease under control.
The spread of infections was “fast and strong,” the official Global Times newspaper cited health authorities as saying.
Two-thirds in NY have gotten dose
The latest federal data shows two-thirds of adults in New York state have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Hospitalizations statewide are down to 1,143 patients, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday. The total is the lowest since Oct. 31.
Vaccination rates falling in Alabama
The pace of vaccinations in Alabama has fallen to a level not seen since the earliest days of the immunization campaign even though less than 30% of the state's population is fully vaccinated.
Statistics from the Alabama Department of Public Health showed Friday the number of people getting shots was similar to the rate in January, when vaccine supply was still very limited.
Officials are worried that large numbers of people are simply refusing to get shots, meaning the threat of the new coronavirus will remain higher than necessary.
“It's very distressing because we have vaccine and we have it in every corner of Alabama,” said Dr. Karen Landers, assistant state health officer.