India has reported four cases of the new Covid variant.
At least four cases of the Omicron sub-variant BF.7, the Covid strain driving China's current surge of cases, have been detected in India so far.
Here are 10 things about the new Covid variant BF.7:
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So far, two cases have been reported from Gujarat, two from Odisha, in which the BF.7 variant has been detected. It has already been detected in several other countries, including the US and UK and European nations such as Belgium, Germany, France and Denmark.
The government, though advising people to wear masks in crowded places, has said that there is no need to panic — a suggestion repeated by Adar Poonawalla of vaccine maker Serum Institute of India (SII).
After a review meeting on Wednesday, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya tweeted, "COVID is not over yet. I have directed all concerned to be alert and strengthen surveillance. We are prepared to manage any situation."
The union government has also asked states to send samples to labs for genome sequencing, which can help identify the variant or sub-variant.
"ln view of the sudden spurt of cases being witnessed in Japan, United States of America, Republic of Korea, Brazil and China, it is essential to gear up the whole genome sequencing of positive case samples to track the variants," read a letter from Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan to all states.
At the Covid review meet chaired by the minister on Wednesday, experts said that though there is no overall increase in Covid caseload as of now in India, there is a need for continued surveillance to keep a track of existing and emerging variants.
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 has a higher capacity to cause reinfection or infect even those vaccinated, news agency PTI reported.
The high degree of spread in Chinese cities — including the capital city of Beijing — is also being attributed to a "low level of immunity", possibly due to previous infections.
When the first case of BF.7 infection showed up, health expert Dr Rajeev Jayadevan had said, "Ever since Omicron arrived in November 2021, it has been giving off branches which divide into smaller branches. Of these, BA.2 and BA.5 proved to be stronger than the rest. BA.5.1.7 and BF.7 are names given to downstream descendants of BA.5."
India reported 129 fresh infections over the last 24 hours, as reported on Wednesday, and the number of active cases currently stands at 3,408. One death was recorded over the last 24 hours.