Covid-19: Why Europe is worried about the BF.7 variant from China and is preparing for new health restrictions

Covid-19: Why Europe is worried about the BF.7 variant from China and is preparing for new health restrictions

The European Commission convened a meeting on Thursday 29 December to discuss a coordinated approach by EU countries to explode Covid-19 cases in China. The fear of the spread of new variants of the virus, including BF.7 from Omicron, is on everyone’s mind.

“In light of the epidemiological situation in China,” said a spokeswoman for the European Commission, the European Executive is meeting, on Thursday morning, December 29, a committee composed of representatives of the 27 Ministries of Health. The aim is to “discuss possible actions for a coordinated European approach”.

After the abrupt end this month of the “Zero Covid” policy in China, which led to a very large wave of pollution in the country, several countries in the world are concerned about the possibility of new types of virus spreading from the Asian country. Starting with BF.7 Omicron, which has infected more than 250 million Chinese people in the past two weeks.

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What we know about the BF.7 Omicron variant

The B.7 is directly descended from the BA.5 variant, which hit France in the middle of the year. Says Professor Bruno Lena who Midi Dispatch. “In France, BF.7 is only related to 5 to 10% of infections,” says the virologist. The trend is also downward, with pollution dropping at BF.7 week after week.

BF.7 belongs to the family of Omicron variants, and the symptoms generated by this strain are not very different from what has been observed recently in France. “An infection of this type usually results in a cough, fever, and throat irritation.” This strain is also highly contagious. If it is causing havoc in China, it is because “there are a lot of people who have never come into contact with the vaccine or the virus,” explains Professor Lina.

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Why does Europe want to protect itself from this alternative?

And the virologist believes that “China is therefore dealing with a species that spreads very quickly, which is not necessarily more dangerous than what we have in France, but which, in the context of a population with little immunity, can cause great damage.” The higher the viral circulation, the higher the risk of a new variant emerging. “We remain vigilant and ready to use ’emergency brakes’ if necessary,” notes a European Commission spokesperson. This obstacle is the possibility of reintroducing restrictive measures in a “coordinated manner” if the epidemiological situation requires it.

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Can member states provide a coordinated response?

Already on Wednesday, December 28, Italy decided to impose compulsory tests on all travelers arriving from China. A measure already taken in Japan, which was also adopted by the United States yesterday.

Elsewhere in the EU, other countries are waiting: the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, has asked that “appropriate measures be taken to protect” the French from the government, ensuring that “the development of the situation in China is followed very carefully”.

Paris says it is “ready to study all useful measures that can be implemented as a result, jointly with France’s European partners, and within the legal framework that exists today”.

The European Commission must strive to prevent some EU member states from going it alone by adopting restrictions on their borders without consultation, as happened at the start of the pandemic in spring 2020.

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