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3 cases of Omicron subvariant BF.7, driving China’s Covid surge, detected in India


NEW DELHI: Three cases of Omicron subvariant BF.7, apparently the strain driving China’s current surge of Covid cases, have been detected in India so far, official sources said Wednesday.

BF.7 is a sub-lineage of the Omicron variant BA.5 and has the strongest infection ability since it is highly transmissible, has a shorter incubation period, and a higher capacity to cause reinfection or infect even those vaccinated.

The first case of BF.7 in India was detected in October by Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre. So far, two cases have been reported from Gujarat and one from Odisha, they said.

In the Covid review meeting chaired by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Wednesday, experts said although there is no overall increase in Covid caseload as of now, there is a need for continued surveillance to keep a track of existing and emerging variants.

The minister asked people to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, including wearing masks in crowded places, and get vaccinated.

Noting that only 27 to 28 per cent of India’s eligible population have taken the Covid precaution dose, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul, after the meeting, said people should take the jab and also wear masks in crowded places.

“People should wear masks in crowded areas. Those with comorbidities and the old should especially adhere to this,” Paul said and urged people not to panic.

According to official sources here, Chinese cities are currently hit by the highly transmissible Omicron strain, mostly BF.7 which is the main variant spreading in Beijing and is contributing to a wider surge of Covid infections in that country.

“The BF.7’s high transmissibility in China might be attributed to a low level of immunity in the Chinese population from the previous infection and possibly vaccination too,” an official source said.

It has already been detected in several other countries, including the US, the UK and European nations such as Belgium, Germany, France and Denmark.

Official sources said random sample testing for coronavirus will be conducted at airports for international passengers arriving from China and other countries.

After the review meeting, Mandaviya said COVID-19 is not over yet. “I have directed all concerned to be alert and strengthen surveillance. We are prepared to manage any situation.”

The government will again hold a meeting next week to monitor the situation.

During the meeting, it was highlighted that Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana and Tamil Nadu are the top five states contributing in terms of new Covid cases even though there is a consistent decline in the overall caseload in the country. (PTI)

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