MOSCOW (Sputnik), Valentina Shvartsman - There is no reason for increased concern over the outbreak of the new strain of the novel coronavirus causing the COVID-19 lung disease in Vietnam's resort city of Da Nang, as this strain has already been known to transmit in other countries, while nothing suggests that mutations of the virus caused any changes to its severity or transmissibility, Dr. Kidong Park, World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative in Vietnam, said.
The outbreak in Da Nang, which is the first instance of local transmission to be detected in Vietnam since April, was reported over the weekend. A total of 30 new infections linked to this outbreak have been reported so far. The country immediately began evacuating tourists from the city, banned all domestic passenger flights to and from Da Nang, as well as gatherings of more than two outside offices, schools, hospitals and public places. Over 15,000 people have been quarantined over the past days. Vietnam's acting health minister has reportedly said that the outbreak was caused by a new strain of the virus different from the one that has been circulating in the country and appears to be more contagious.
According to the WHO official, the UN health agency has been in touch with the Vietnamese authorities on the matter.
"The COVID-19 virus found in the recent cases in Da Nang is similar to COVID-19 virus circulating in other countries in July. Although mutations have emerged amongst these circulating viruses, there is no cause for increased concern. Based on the current evidence, the transmissibility and severity of COVID-19 virus have NOT changed. There is no evidence that the mutations seen so far have imparted any increased or decreased virulence or severity of infection", Park said in written replies.
The WHO official noted that sticking to known public health measures — such as hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and avoiding having conversations in closed and crowded areas — was the best way to protect oneself and people around you from the virus. He also praised the robust response of the Vietnamese government, which had been "working round the clock" on contact tracing, testing and imposing public health measures in a transparent manner.
"The Government has always been determined to ensure that its people are protected from COVID-19 by keeping the country’s relatively low number of cases and controlling the transmission within the community. Viet Nam has effectively managed the first wave of the outbreak and has since been preparing for the possibility of wider community transmission. WHO continues to acknowledge the Government’s quick and decisive actions to prevent further spread of the virus, as well as provide support to the country in ensuring that measures implemented are balanced and based on current situation and best scientific evidence", Park said.