Vietnam suspends flights from Britain, South Africa over new COVID-19 variants

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HANOI, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Vietnam has suspended inbound flights from countries with new COVID-19 variants, initially Britain and South Africa, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

A new variant first found in Britain includes a genetic mutation that could result in the virus spreading more easily between people.

"The risk for the disease to penetrate and spread in Vietnam is very high, especially from people entering from infected countries," the ministry said in a statement.

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Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has told authorities to work on a list of other countries that should be covered by the suspension, the ministry said, adding that he has ordered them to tighten control of quarantine facilities.

Vietnam has suspended all inbound international commercial flights since late March, but the government has been operating repatriation flights to bring home Vietnamese citizens stuck abroad amid the pandemic.

Some special flights carrying foreign experts and investors have been allowed to fly into Vietnam. All people entering the country have to spend 14 days in quarantine.

Vietnam on Tuesday reported seven imported COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections in the country to 1,504, with 35 deaths.

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Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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