Should India worry about China's covid surge? | Mint

Should India worry about China's covid surge?

The BF.7 variant has been in circulation in India since the end of September this year. Photo: AP
The BF.7 variant has been in circulation in India since the end of September this year. Photo: AP

Summary

  • BF.7 is a sub-variant of omicron that has spread in China, Japan, Korea, US and other countries.

New Delhi: Covid-19 cases are rising in several countries including China, as the BF.7 variant of the omicron virus spreads rapidly. India is strengthening surveillance, even though the country has reported a decline in cases and deaths. Mint explains the spurt in China and if we should be worried. 

What do we know about omicron BF.7? 

BF.7 is a sub-variant of omicron that has spread in China, Japan, Korea, US and other countries. Omicron is a variant of concern and first originated in November 2021 in South Africa, with a tendency to mutate very fast. Experts say the BF.7 sub variant, which is a sub-lineage of the omicron variant BA.5., is more virulent, has shorter incubation period and greater transmissibility to infect large number of people. As per research, BF.7 has a reproduction number of 10 to 18.6. This means that an infected person can transmit the virus to an average of 10 to 18.6 people. 

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Is the sub-variant in circulation in India? 

The BF.7 variant has been in circulation in India since the end of September this year—the first case was detected by the Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre. Three months since, India hasn’t reported any rise in hospitalization or deaths due to the BF.7 variant. Hence, many experts say there is no need to panic. However, on Tuesday, Rajesh Bhushan, Union health secretary, directed scientists to monitor trends and conduct whole genome sequencing of positive cases in India as many cases could be asymptomatic. This will allow scientists to ascertain whether BF.7 is a “variant of concern" or not. 

Why is the variant creating havoc in China? 

China’s zero tolerance policy meant that a large chunk of the population wasn’t exposed to the virus in any form. This population, which includes the elderly, has poor immunity. Some experts also say that the Chinese vaccines, when developed, showed low efficacy of about 54% and with the origin of different variants of concern, the efficacy may have gone down. 

Why is there less worry in India now? 

In India, more than 220 crore vaccination doses have been administered, including booster shots. Many got reinfected or have already been exposed to omicron, its sub-variants, and sub-lineages. As a result, many Indians have developed ‘hybrid immunity’ or ‘super immunity’, due to a combination of extensive vaccination and natural infection. Nevertheless, in view of the sudden spurt of cases abroad, the government is reviewing the situation and has directed all relevant agencies to be alert.

What are the symptoms of BF.7? 

Symptoms are no different, including dehydration, severe body pain, fever, cough and sneezing. Weakness could last for several days. In people with co-morbidity and the elderly, these symptoms can get worse. It is therefore important to follow covid-appropriate behaviour—wear masks, especially in public places and avoid gatherings. People should also complete their vaccination doses. Besides, genomic surveillance and alertness is required to know the progress of virus. 

Elsewhere in Mint

In Opinion, Anurag Beher says covid memories tell us we can be better versions of usual selves. Aashi Gupta, Vani S. Kulkarni & Raghav Gaiha write on the link between religiosity and well-being. Rajiv Sabharwal says India will be best served by a multi-engine credit delivery system. Long Story narrates the hope and despair in covid-ridden China.

 

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