2023: New year, new beginnings, but at the same time it’s also a beginning for something else. We are talking about the emerging cases of COVID- 19 new variant. Is India ready to face the same even this time? No intention to scare you but it's time to get more cautious about the spread of this virus and strictly follow the government guidelines as Indian health authorities are actively taking measures after the severe new strain outbreak in China, Japan and the US.
As per MyGov.in India reported a “steady decline” in Covid cases, with a daily positivity rate at 0.01%, as of December 22. Still, a sudden rise in cases due to the new BF.7 strain of the Omicron variant has raised serious concerns. This article discusses the major variants of concern of covid 19, details of a new strain, guidelines issued by the Centre & Indian Medical Association, and many more.
What made us write about this topic is that these form a major part of competitive exams as questions on symptoms, characteristics, vaccines and remedies etc. are very likely to strike the current affairs part of the paper. So, why not cover it here as well? Let’s get started.
What are the major variants of COVID-19?
The SARS-CoV-2 virus first emerged in Wuhan, China & a virus with one or more mutations is known as a variant of the original virus. So, like any other virus, the SARs-COV-2 virus was also programmed to mutate, bringing new variants. In May 2021, the WHO started using the Greek alphabet for assigning letters or names to variants.
The allotment of the alphabet is done to make them easier to remember. Some variants of concern are given the names alpha, delta, omicron etc., whereas some of the variants of interest, like Eta, Iota & Kappa, have been taken off by WHO as they are no longer a concern. (A variant of interest becomes a variant of concern if it spreads more easily)
These are the variants of concern:
First detected in the United Kingdom, and then India was hit by this variant in its first wave. This variant was designated a variant of concern on December 2020, it was now verified in 192 locations worldwide (as of 3 December 2021).
First detected in South Africa was designated a variant of concern in December 2020. It was verified in almost 139 locations worldwide (as of 3 December 2021), as per the evidence, its spread might have decreased when the Delta variant took over.
Gamma was first detected in Brazil, which was designated a variant of concern in January 2021, it is now verified in 98/239 locations worldwide as of 3 December 2021. It has been a kind of mutation which made it easier for the virus to spread.
First detected in India in May 2021, is now been verified in 176 locations worldwide; this variant has been the deadliest one & became the most dominant variant in many countries. Delta contained a mutation with additional ones that were never seen in other variants of concern. Reports also warned about the ‘Delta plus’ variant, which was first identified in Nepal.
The most recent variant on spread had been Omicron. The first known confirmed Omicron infection was from a specimen collected on November 2021. As of Dec, 2021, it is almost verified at 22 locations worldwide. Few of its mutations are concerning. Omicron is considered less severe and transmissible as compared to delta.
What is the new strain of covid-19 called?
The Omicron BF.7 sub-variant- BA.188.8.131.52. This sub-variant has now been a concern worldwide; the current highly transferable BF.7 variant is now prevalent in India. There has been a sudden increase in the spread of such variants in China, Japan, South Korea, the US & Brazil. The infectivity rate in this variant is quite high because R value of the BF.7 variant is 18.
New guidelines issued by Centre on BF.7 variant
1. Union Health Ministry and PM Narendra Modi urged Indians to wear masks & maintain social distancing, like in public places i.e.; airports, railway stations, etc.
2. The most vulnerable people and elderly must take their booster dose as soon as possible to curb any infection.
3. Health Ministry issued guidelines regarding flight travel. That is, those taking a flight for holidays are mandated to wear masks and get completely vaccinated.
4. Passengers with COVID symptoms will be isolated and shifted to a nearby medical facility.
5. Children below 12 years of age will be exempted from post-arrival random testing.
6. The government urges all Indians to take their COVID-19 vaccines along with the booster dose.
7. Symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cold, runny nose, cough, vomiting, or loose motions must not be overlooked.
With emerging concerns over the new strain of the virus, the Indian Medical Association has also issued several guidelines which are highly advisable such as advising people to avoid public gatherings, social meetings etc., avoiding non-important international tours, wearing masks, maintaining hygiene, consulting a doctor in case of symptoms. Even though the Union Health Ministry or the Medical Association is constantly monitoring the situation but it is also our duty to do everything that is possible to prevent the spread of the virus.