Karnataka Health Minister warns BF.7 likely to come to state in 2-3 months; experts disagree

Karnataka Health Minister Dr K. Sudhakar has warned that the new Omicron variant of BF.7, spreading widely in more than 10 countries including China and America, is likely to come to the state in two or three months.

BySumit Jha

Published Dec 26, 2022 | 1:17 AMUpdated Dec 26, 2022 | 1:20 AM

Covid19

Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar has warned that the new Omicron subvariant BF.7, spreading widely in more than 10 countries including China and the US, is likely to come to the state in two or three months.

Sudhakar told reporters that people should take this seriously. “None of us should be lazy about the new variant. Everyone should take a booster dose,” he said.

However, scientists and experts are saying that it is hard to predict as the situation looks normal.

CMC Vellore virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang said the variants now circulating in China have been in the rest of the world for months. The behaviour of the virus is not any different from expected.

“In India as well, we already have XBB and BF.7. They are, like all Omicron subvariants, very good at infecting people because they escape the immune response that prevents infection, but are not more severe than Delta,” said Kang in a tweet.

China, comparatively, is more vulnerable right now possibly because of low natural immunity, poor vaccination strategy, where young and healthy people were prioritised rather than the older and vulnerable population, and lower vaccine efficiency, said Dr Naresh Purohit, Advisor, National Communicable Disease Control Programme, in a statement.

He added that there can be a wave only when a new variant emerges that India has not seen before. “However, proactive planning based on evidence from enhanced surveillance and genomic sequencing is needed,” he added.

Given the current Covid-19 scenario in India, it is time to exercise prudence rather than panic, as the country is unlikely to witness a fourth wave due to the three-dose vaccine protection and herd immunity.

Dr Rakesh Mishra, the Director of Tata Institute for Genetics and Society in Bengaluru, who works on wastewater surveillance to check the outbreak of the disease in the city, said that there was no upward trend of Covid-19 cases in the city.

“There is no surge in the Covid-19 virus in wastewater and it will remain the same for some time. A Covid-19 subvariant is less likely to trouble India due to hybrid immunity among the populace. Nevertheless, people must be careful since the only tool the virus has for an outbreak is mutations,” Mishra told South First.

He added that China would be the playground for this virus for the next several months. It means the virus would have a good chance to undergo mutations, and many variants would emerge from there and these would be different from BF.7.

The Union Health Ministry has made the RT-PCR test mandatory for international arrivals from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Thailand.

On arrival from these countries, if any passenger is found symptomatic or tests positive for Covid-19, they she will be put under quarantine.