Update: 10:24 | 05/01/2023
An Omicron subvariant named XBB, believed to be highly contagious and capable of evading immune responses, has been found in HCMC.
The HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases on Wednesday confirmed the presence of the subvariant upon Covid-19 variant screening among 526 patients. It is the first time that Vietnam has officially recorded the presence of this particular subvariant.
Test tube labelled "Covid-19 Omicron variant positive" is seen in this illustration picture taken January 15, 2022.
The subvariant was first detected in August 2022, and over the past four months, it has spread to around 70 countries and territories. The WHO said the XBB subvariant, as well as its close cousin XBB.1.5, are responsible for 44% of all Covid-19 cases in the U.S., and are causing new infection waves in certain Asian regions, including India and Singapore back in October last year.
Experts said the shifts among Omicron subvariants is in line with global trends, and the subvariant is likely to have an edge in infection and eventually become dominant. However, the HCMC Department of Health said the current Covid-19 situation is still under control thanks to the role of vaccines in preventing severe cases and death.
The Ministry of Health has not had the genetic sequencing data to evaluate which Covid-19 variants are circulating within Vietnam.
"Ironically, probably the worst variant that the world is facing right now is actually XBB," Reuters cited Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, as saying.