Vietnam reports first case of new coronavirus variant

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FILE PHOTO: Measures to avoid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Hanoi

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam has detected its first imported case of the new coronavirus variant that is spreading rapidly around Britain, the health ministry said on Saturday.

The variant was detected in a 44-year-old woman returning to Vietnam from Britain, who was quarantined upon arrival and was confirmed positive for the virus on Dec. 24, the ministry said in a statement.

"Researchers ran gene-sequencing on the patient's sample and found the strain is a variant known as "VOC 202012/01"", it said.

The variant includes a genetic mutation that, in theory, could result in the virus spreading more easily between people.

Countries around the world have cut off travel links to Britain to stop the spread of the new variant, which scientists have said is 40-70% more transmissible than the original virus.

Vietnam is still operating repatriation flights to bring its citizens stuck in the UK home amid the pandemic.

With strict quarantine and tracking measures, Vietnam quickly contained coronavirus outbreaks, allowing economic activity to rebound faster than in much of Asia. It has recorded 1,474 infections, with 35 deaths.

(Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Editing by Kim Coghill)