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COVID: India reports first case of a highly infectious Omicron sub-variant in Pune

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New Delhi, Oct 18: India has detected its first case of Omicron subvariant BQ.1 sub-variant, which is the dominant version of SARS-CoV-2 in the US, in Pune. It comes a day after a highly infectious Omicron variant BF.7 was detected in Gujarat.

This comes at a time when India is set to celebrate Diwali festival next week.

COVID: Ahead of Diwali festival, India detects first case of Omicrons BQ.1 sub-variant

Scientists claim that both the sub-variants BQ.1 and BF.7 pack mutations that could make them contagious and also easily evade immunity shield, according to a report in Times of India. "This is the first reported case of BQ.1 in India," the daily quoted a senior scientist involved in the country's genome surveillance network as saying.

However, BA.5 and its sub-lineages are not the dominant variants in India as it accounts for less than five per cent of the cases.

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On the other hand, the first case of Omicron variant BF.7, which is said to be behind the recent surge in Covid-19 cases in the US, has been detected in the Gujarat Biotechnology Research centre.

"These are all next-generation strains or offsprings of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. Since Omicron's emergence in January this year, we have not seen a completely new variant of the virus. However, these sub-variants, called sub-lineages, also have the potential to cause surges, so they should not be ignored. That said, the BA.2.75 sub-lineage of Omicron's BA.2 variant continues to dominate the scene in India," a scientist from the National Institute of Virology (NIV) said.

An official has told The New Indian Express that there is nothing to worry but people should follow COVID-19-appropriate behaviour with the festival around the corner.

However, Rajeev Jayadevan, co-chairman of the National Indian Medical Association (IMA) Covid-19 task force, has called this BF.7, also known as 'Omicron spawn', these are immune escape variants and people can get infected even if they have taken vaccination. He advised elderly people from staying away from large gatherings.

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    "Elderly and people with severe medical conditions are advised to stay away from such gatherings, as even an Omicron infection is known to destabilise them, leading to severe disease and bad outcomes. India has achieved a high degree of adult vaccination coverage which has, along with immunity due to natural infection, provided a large degree of protection so far," he stated.

    Meanwhile, India has reported 1,542 new COVID-19 cases with eight deaths in the last 24 hours, the Union Health Ministry data said on Tuesday. There are 26,449 active cases in the country.

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