New Delhi: As COVID sweeps China, India is strengthening its COVID policies, despite no significant or worrisome increase in cases. The new BF.7 variant of Omicron, which is driving the COVID wave in China, has officially arrived in India with as many as 4 confirmed cases found in international travelers. This variant has spread in China, Japan, Korea, US and other countries. We spoke to Dr Pavithra Venkatagopalan, Coronavirologist and COVID Awareness Specialist about the new variant. She shares, “One interesting thing we need to discover is where this variant originated or started. It could have been circulating in India already, we don’t know. In July itself, we found a few cases in India but we don’t know where it started. We are getting data from smaller hospitals in China but we don’t know what’s happening there in bigger cities and bigger hospitals.
The panic that’s getting created can have both good and bad responses. The good that can come out of it is people will take masking seriously to prevent infections.”
The difference between two years ago and now is that we all are overwhelmingly vaccinated. That thus plays a significant role in the level of protection we have. Vaccines deployed in India have shown to be safe, protective and efficacious. This will play a big role in how serious infection will be in any wave.
Booster dose campaigns have not gathered as much heat as the initial prime campaigns we had. But most people have been boosted once. The booster shot prepares your body to remember how to initiate an immune response in case of attack. We know that immune response lasts definitely for 9 months and up to a year it stays in the memory.
Isolation, masking and distancing are some important techniques to keep the infections from spreading.
We don’t have clinically significant data in India regarding the severity of this virus. But we do know that the RO (reproductive factor) of this variant is 1:18, which means 1 can infect up to 18 people. In a smaller gathering of 15, one infected person can infect everyone. The more people we allow this virus to replicate, the more people it will infect and the more chance it will have to mutate.
The need for taking personal responsibility
Given the virality of this new variant, it is important that people stay at home and mask until the symptoms subside.
“The only thing we can hope for is personal responsibility. People should refuse stepping out if they have a cold, instead of popping a pill and going out for work or to meet people.
The response to this new Omicron sub variant will depend on one’s immune response. It is an Omicron sub variant so it should be an upper respiratory infection but because the viral load is high, you can never tell it can turn into a lower respiratory infection,” she adds.