‘Hybrid’ variant emerges amidst surge in cases . . .
Vietnam has identified a new hybrid variant of COVID-19 that combines features of both the variant first discovered in India and the variant first discovered in the U.K. Officials have warned that this new hybrid variant may be more transmissible and may spread more readily by air. The news comes amid a surge of cases across Southeast Asia over the past few months. Driven by the more transmissible variants, cases have more than doubled in Thailand and Cambodia, while Malaysia is on the brink of crisis, with daily new per capita case rates that exceed those of India. Vietnam is the latest country to see a surge in cases, recording nearly two-thirds of their 7,432 cases over the past month.
Tech sector in peril . . .
In response to this surge in cases, Vietnam’s government has announced new social distancing measures in Ho Chi Minh City, including closing shops and restaurants and suspending religious services. It also plans to implement mass testing of more than 100,000 people a day, prioritizing high-risk groups such as workers in industrial parks. There are fears that this recent spike could severely disrupt Vietnam’s tech manufacturing sector, as outbreaks have already forced the closure of multiple industrial parks in the northern provinces of Bac Giang and Bac Ninh, where workers at numerous plants, including Samsung and Canon, have tested positive.
Vaccination lags while virus surges . . .
Vaccine programs in Southeast Asia have been hampered both by a false sense of security from the region’s previous success in controlling the pandemic, as well as by supply issues exacerbated by the devastating surge of COVID-19 in India. Cambodia has only 15 per cent of its population fully or partly vaccinated. In Malaysia and Indonesia, it is just six per cent; in Thailand, less than four per cent; and in Vietnam, only one per cent have received their first dose. These low vaccination rates are of particular concern amid mounting evidence that the vaccines have diminished efficacy against the Indian variant after only one dose, which is also of concern for Canada, where just five per cent of Canadians have received both vaccine doses.