What is Omicron BF.7 variant and can it cause havoc in India?


New Delhi: The Omicron BF.7 variant of Covid-19, which caused a surge in cases in China, has entered India. An NRI lady in Vadodara, Gujarat tested positive for Omicron BF.7 at the Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre in October and since then, reportedly, two more cases of the same have been found in the nation. The government has issued an advisory asking people to wear masks in crowded places.

What is the Omicron BF.7 variant?
The Omicron BF.7 is a sub-lineage of the Omicron variant BA.5 and was first detected in China in October 2022. After 1,760 cases were reported till October 12, the Chinese government reimposed the lockdowns and travel restrictions. The variant has also been found in Belgium, England Germany, Denmark and France. According to some reports, the variant has been detected in the USA too.

Situation in China
During the surge, China also recorded more than 35,000 cases in a day and the variant also caused multiple deaths. China used a ‘dead virus’ vaccine to counter Covid-19, which seems less effective when it comes to BF.7 as compared to an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer. According to experts, China has an immune-naive population and that has led to such a rise in the number of BF.7 cases in the country. The numbers were at their peak at the start of December and are slowly descending. December 19 saw 4,666 new cases in mainland China.

Can BF.7 cause similar havoc in India?
According to experts, India saw the first case of the variant in October and since then there has not been a rise in the number of cases. The symptoms and behaviour of the virus are known to be similar to the BA.1 and BA.2 sub-variants seen in India. However, the government has recommended precautionary vaccine doses and masks in crowded places to counter any threat.