Vietnam detects fast-spreading Omicron subvariant

By Le Nga, Thuc Linh   April 18, 2023 | 02:16 am PT
Vietnam detects fast-spreading Omicron subvariant
A Covid-19 patient being treated at Thanh Nhan Hospital in Hanoi, April 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Ngoc
The Hanoi health department on Monday said the highly contagious Omicron variant XBB.1.9.1 had been detected among Covid-19 test samples in Nam Tu Liem District.

Vu Cao Cuong, deputy director of the Hanoi Department of Health, said the number of Covid cases had increased recently, but there has not been much change to how virulent the current strains were.

The Hanoi Center for Disease Control has collected 10 more Covid-19 samples in six districts and towns of Hanoi and sent them to the Bach Mai hospital for genetic sequencing. The results have not been announced.

This is the first time the XBB.1.9.1 variant has been detected in Vietnam. The variant is currently circulating in several countries, including the U.K., Germany, France, the United States, Singapore and the Philippines.

Earlier this month, the WHO said the XBB.1.9.1 was a new variant that spread rapidly but had mild symptoms.

Last week, HCMC also detected the presence of the Omicron variant XBB.1.5, another highly contagious variant found in Vietnam for the first time.

Babatunde Olowokure, Regional Emergencies Director of the WHO West Pacific, said the detection of the subvariant needed to be seen as a positive thing, as it meant that the system used to monitor the coronavirus’s evolution was working well.

The virus is unlikely to trigger large-scale outbreaks, he said, adding that researchers were looking into its capacity regarding infection, virulence and immunity.

Data from the Ministry of Health earlier this month revealed that severe cases make up 1.1-1.4% of all cases. Over 30% are found in those aged 50 and above. Children make up around 2-6% of all cases.

Hanoi has recorded the highest number of cases within the last five days, at 96 new cases a day on average. A total 566 people have been hospitalized, with 29 requiring oxygen support.

Nguyen Thanh Ha, deputy director of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases, said the facility was treating 146 patients, mostly the elderly and those with underlying conditions, including 21 severe cases.

The National Hospital for Tropical Diseases is the foremost facility for Covid treatment in northern regions. In January and February, 20 cases were transferred to the hospital, and in March a further 45 cases were transferred to the hospital.

The first week of April saw 47 cases transferred to the hospital, rising to 85 in the second week.

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