A combination of the so-called Indian variant and UK variant of Covid-19 with rapid airborne transmission has been discovered in Vietnam.


On the 1st of June it was reported that the surge of Covid-19 cases in Vietnam was due to what was first of all called a 'hybrid' strain, and this 'hybrid' strain was said to be 'dangerous' because it appeared to be 'airborne'.

Authorities have identified the strain as a combination of the Indian and UK COVID-19 variants, saying it spreads quickly by air.

The spike in infections first became noticeable in late April and has now accounted for more than half of the country’s total of 6713 registered cases. So far, there have been 47 deaths.

“Vietnam has uncovered a new COVID-19 variant combining characteristics of the two existing variants first found in India and the UK,” Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said in a statement on Saturday.

“The new variant is very dangerous,” he added.

The New Daily.com

Many other sites re-reported the two features of a 'hybrid' and the fact of the strain being 'airborne'

Authorities in Vietnam have detected a new coronavirus variant that is a combination of B.1.617.2 (Indian) and B.1.1.7 (UK) variants and spreads quickly by air, the Vietnamese health minister said on Saturday.


However there was a rapid correction concerning the concept of a 'hybrid' and, again, many websites reported this :

A coronavirus variant that Vietnamese authorities thought was a combination of the Indian and UK strains is not a new hybrid but part of the existing Indian strain, the World Health Organization's (WHO) representative in Vietnam told Nikkei.

France 24.com

However there was no correction of the report of the strain (or new strain, or combination of strains) being 'airborne', nor did W.H.O. appear to comment on that report.

My understanding of 'airborne', in the context of a virus, is that the strain would not require to be transmitted as an aerosol, by means of moist breath or saliva or mucus. 'Airborne', in this context, I understand to mean transmitted as particles in air, much like pollen,

In which case this would be an extremely important (and worrying) piece of information.

Coupled with the above information is the fact that over the past few days there has been a sudden rise in global deaths of Covid-19 patients :

  • 7,915 June 07
  • 10,230 June 08
  • 14,106 June 09.

World Odometer

This jump in deaths takes us back to May 13th, a significant backward step at a time when global deaths were gradually falling.

Is it the case that a 'dangerous' and 'airborne' variant (albeit not a 'hybrid') is now at large ?

  • None of the quotes you provide use the term "airborne". They all say "spreads quickly by air". They know other strains spread by air, and they are focussed on the speed. The title suggests travelling by air is new.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 12 at 10:26
  • 1
    @Oddthinking I have edited and added a link to one of the many original articles which did actually use the word 'airborne' which is a technical expression in that field referring not to aerosol transfer but to pure airborne carriage without other assistance. There was some confusion regarding this and many articles simply referred to 'air transfer' or similar which does not adequately distinguish between true airborne transfer and aerosol transfer. As yet, there appears to be no denial of the original medical assessment within Vietnam.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 12 at 16:33
  • aren't all strains of COVID-19 airborne and dangerous?
    – user253751
    Jun 24 at 9:01
  • @user253751 'Airborne' can mean 'transmitted by aerosol', that is by droplets. Which, yes, is serious and so, far all Covid strains appear to be thus.. But 'airborne' can also mean 'directly transmitted in air' (like Ebola) and that is another dimension of seriousness altogether. Particles can waft on the air for kilometres and still be viable.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 25 at 10:04

I'll start with the easy one: "Is it airborne?". Yes, it is, but that's nothing new. All known variants of COVID-19 can be transmitted by airborne routes, and this has been known since at least last October.

"Is it dangerous?" That's a rather subjective question: all variants of COVID-19 could be considered dangerous in the sense that they can cause death. Based on the Worldometer data and using the heuristic that deaths lag cases by two weeks, Vietnam is seeing a case fatality rate of about 0.6%, well below the typical 2.2%. But the expected case fatality rate varies greatly depending on who is getting infected: an outbreak among healthy college students is expected to produce far fewer fatalities than an outbreak in a nursing home.

In any case, the events in Vietnam are unrelated to the recent spike in the death toll. The recent increase in deaths is because of a correction of the death toll in Bihar, India, where a backlog of 6148 deaths was added to the count.

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