COVID-19 | Omicron BF.7 subvariant, linked to China Peak, first found in India in July

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Medical staff wear PPE while treating patients at a fever clinic treating COVID-19 patients in Beijing on Dec 21, 2022. | Photo credit: Getty Images

The BF.7 variant of COVID-19, which is believed to be driving the recent rise in cases in China, was first identified in India in July.

Four instances of the Omicron subvariant were genome-sequenced in people in Gujarat and Odisha in subsequent months, but were not linked to increased severity or infectiousness in the two states, said two senior officials who attended a meeting convened by Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya. on Wednesday independently confirmed to the hindu🇧🇷

“From now on this [BF.7] it’s not a cause for concern, but what we should be focusing on is surveillance and that’s what states should focus on,” said one. the hindu🇧🇷 Both declined to be identified.

With a rise in coronavirus cases in China sparking global alarm, the Minister of Health has convened a meeting of senior officials from the Center and the National Covid Task Force to assess the situation in India.

“COVID is not over yet. I have ordered everyone involved to stay alert and increase vigilance. I also urge people to get the COVID vaccine,” said Mr. Mandaviya.

Omicron BF.7 was detected in Odisha in a single sample tested on Sept. 30, 2022, the state’s department of health and family welfare said on Wednesday. “At the time of testing, it was neither VOC (Variant of Interest) nor VOI (Variant of Interest). In the following 3 months, no further samples of BF.7 were detected in Odisha,” he added.

declining cases

India has been reporting a “steady decline” in cases, with numbers averaging around 158 every day in the week ended December 19. However, globally, there has been an increase in the daily average of cases over the past six weeks, with around 6 lakh cases reported weekly as of 19 December, the Ministry of Health said in a statement. “A new, highly transmissible BF.7 strain of the Omicron variant has been found to be behind a broader rise in Covid infections in China,” he added.

The dominant variant in India currently is the Omicron AB5, (which is linked to the BF.7), although it is based on extremely limited numbers. The assessment of government officials involved in India’s COVID-19 management strategy was that the increase in China was largely due to that country’s “COVID zero policy”, which has been in place since 2020 before being relaxed this month. . They believe this has resulted in large numbers of people who were not exposed to variants such as Alpha and Delta now becoming infected with the Omicron subvariant.

different india, china

“Whether BF.7 behaves differently in a population that has been minimally exposed to the coronavirus as opposed to Indians who have hybrid immunity (multiple doses of the vaccine along with exposure to multiple variants of the virus) is being investigated by the Indian Board of Medical Research,” said one of the the hindu🇧🇷

An expert said the hindu that India’s real concern was not BF.7 but XBB, a recombinant variant that was a combination of two strains (BJ.1 and BA.2.75) but was “highly infectious”, responsible for an outbreak in many countries and that it had the potential to escape antibodies from existing vaccines. “The concern is that China’s large population is barely exposed to the virus, and if exposed to something like XBB, it could seed even newer variants that could have all kinds of medical consequences. That BF.7 is responsible for the current peak in China is only a conjecture based on very limited samples, although it is almost certainly some Omicron-linked variant,” said Vinod Scaria, CSIR-Institute for Genomics and Integrative Biology.

India has officially reported 4.4 million cases of COVID-19 since March 2020, although several independent investigations put the number much higher. There are currently around 3,500 active infections, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

China’s official numbers are low

While reports emerging from China describe flooded hospitals and crematoriums and dwindling drug stocks, official figures reported from that country remain low. China has recorded only two deaths since December 3. Officially, only 5,200 people have died from COVID-19 in China over the past three years.

Also read | Medical experts sound an alarm and insist on adhering to COVID-19 protocols

However, modeling studies estimate a spike in cases in China in early January and two other spikes in mid-January and February due to an increase in travel. Some studies expected one million deaths from COVID-19 in China in the next few days. Although 90% of the Chinese population has been vaccinated, less than half of people over 80 have been vaccinated three times.

In India, so far, around 2.2 million vaccines have been administered, although only around 28% of people over 18 have received three doses. Official government policy is to encourage three doses of the vaccine.

(with information from Satyasundar Barik)

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