Vietnam, which is dealing with its worst outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, introduced new restrictions for its largest metropolis on Sunday, a day after its well being minister mentioned a “very harmful” new variant of the coronavirus had been detected within the nation.

New social distancing necessities can be imposed in Ho Chi Minh Metropolis, which has a inhabitants of some 9 million, roughly double that of the capital, Hanoi. The restrictions embrace a restrict of 5 folks in public gatherings, the state-run newspaper Tuoi Tre reported. A church in Ho Chi Minh Metropolis is on the heart of a cluster involving at the least 126 circumstances, in accordance with state information media.

Metropolis officers mentioned that residents ought to preserve strict social distancing of at the least six ft and keep house except completely vital, particularly if they’re over 60, Tuoi Tre reported. It mentioned the restrictions would go into impact at midnight.

Till not too long ago, Vietnam, a rustic of about 97 million folks, had had outstanding success in containing the virus. Final yr, it by no means reported greater than 50 new circumstances in a single day. By the tip of April, it had reported fewer than 3,000 circumstances and solely 35 deaths.

However since then, its caseload has greater than doubled, to nearly 7,000, and its dying toll has risen to 47. The coronavirus has now unfold to at the least 30 of the nation’s municipalities and provinces.

Vietnam’s discovery of a brand new variant was reported at a government meeting Saturday by the well being minister, Nguyen Thanh Lengthy. He mentioned it had traits of the variants first recognized in India and Britain, in accordance with Reuters, which obtained a recording of the assembly.

“That the brand new one is an Indian variant with mutations that initially belong to the U.Ok. variant could be very harmful,” Mr. Long said. He mentioned laboratory exams indicated that the variant replicated itself very quickly, which he mentioned might doubtlessly clarify the surge of circumstances in Vietnam.

But it surely was not instantly clear how a lot was understood in regards to the variant — whether or not it replicates as quickly in regular circumstances because it does within the lab, which particular mutations it has and the way prevalent it could be. Viruses mutate consistently, however a lot of the mutations dwindle away. Mr. Lengthy mentioned the federal government would publish information about it quickly.

Earlier than Sunday, Vietnam had already imposed a variety of restrictions in areas the place outbreaks had occurred, together with closing eating places, bars, golf equipment, parks and spas. It additionally imposed a nationwide ban on non secular gatherings.

Different Southeast Asian international locations are additionally battling their worst outbreaks of the pandemic, together with Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia, which on Saturday reported its fifth consecutive every day file of recent circumstances with greater than 9,000. Taiwan, one other success story from final yr, can be suffering its worst outbreak.

All 5 governments are attempting to step up their vaccination efforts. Well being consultants have mentioned that the sluggish tempo of inoculation in a lot of the world poses the danger that new variants which are deadlier and extra simply transmitted will proceed to emerge.

Chau Doan contributed reporting.