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21 COVID-19 sub-variant JN.1 cases found in 3 Indian states; Goa alone logs 19

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21 COVID-19 sub-variant JN.1 cases found in 3 Indian states; Goa alone logs 19

Cases of JN.1 designated as a 'variant of interest' by WHO has been reported in three states – Goa, Kerala, and Maharashtra

FP Staff December 20, 2023 16:07:22 IST 21 COVID-19 sub-variant JN.1 cases found in 3 Indian states; Goa alone logs 19

A healthcare worker collects a COVID-19 test swab sample from a man. FILE/REUTERS.

The deadly coronavirus is rearing its ugly head once again. According to NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul, 21 cases of COVID-19 sub-variant JN.1 have been detected across India till now.

Cases of JN.1 designated as a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization (WHO) has been reported in three states – Goa, Kerala, and Maharashtra.

A report by PTI quoted official sources saying 19 cases of JN.1 COVID-19 sub-variant have been traced in Goa and one each in Kerala and Maharashtra.

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As per INSACOG data, 18 cases of JN.1 COVID variant was traced in Goa and one each in Kerala and Maharashtra.

For the unversed, Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium, or INSACOG, is a national multi-agency consortium of Genome Sequencing Laboratories (RGSLs) laboratories established by the Government of India on 30 December, 2020. This consortium monitors the genomic variations in SARS-CoV-2.

Active COVID-19 cases in India

According to the latest data released by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) Wednesday, India, in the last 24 hours, recorded 614 new cases of COVID-19, highest since 21 May.

Of the total new cases reported in last 24 hours, Kerala alone logged 292 infections.

The number of active coronavirus cases in India has now increased to 2,311 and the virus claimed three lives in last 24 hours, all reported from Kerala.

Govt asks states to be alert

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya Wednesday chaired a high-level review meeting with states to review the preparedness of health facilities and stressed on being alert against emerging strains of coronavirus.

The minister reiterated that coronavirus was not over yet and requested the states to monitor emerging COVID-19 cases, symptoms and case severity to plan appropriate public health response.

Mandaviya assured the states of all support from the Centre and stressed the need for collective efforts between the Centre and the states to deal with the emerging situation in the spirit of the “whole-of-government” approach.

“We need to be on the alert but there is no need to panic,” the Union health minister said.

The minister also directed officials to strengthen the surveillance system for whole genome sequencing of positive case samples to track the variants through the INSACOG network and ensure timely detection of newer variants.

“This would facilitate in taking appropriate public health measures in a timely manner,” the minister noted.

Mandaviya also requested states and the Union Territories to ramp up testing and refer a large number of Covid positive samples and that of pneumonia-like illnesses to INSACOG Genome Sequencing Laboratories (IGSLs) daily to track new variants, if any.

He also urged all states to increase surveillance and ensure adequate stock of medicines, oxygen cylinders and concentrators, ventilators and vaccines.

The minister has asked officials to undertake mock drills every three months at both the central and state levels to assess the functionality of PSA plants, oxygen concentrators, cylinders and ventilators, and encourage the sharing of best practices.

Also, states have been asked to raise awareness among people on respiratory hygiene and ensure the dissemination of factually correct information and counter fake news to mitigate any panic.

On the new JN.1 variant of SARS-CoV-2, the meeting was told that the variant was under intense scientific scrutiny, but not a cause of immediate concern. No clustering of cases has been observed in India due to JN.1.

Dr V K Paul, member (Health) of NITI Aayog reiterated the need for a “whole-of-government” approach to tackle the challenges posed by the surge in Covid cases and the emergence of a new variant.

He further said the scientific community in India was closely investigating the new variant but stressed the need for states to ramp up testing and strengthen their surveillance systems.

WHO classifies JN.1 as ‘variant of interest’

Given the COVID-19 strain JN.1 rapidly increasing spread, the WHO has classified it as a separate “variant of interest,” but said it poses a “low” global public health risk.

The JN.1 variant was previously classified as a variant of interest (VOI) as part of the BA.2.86 sublineages, the parent lineage that is classified as a VOI, the world body said. However, in recent weeks, JN.1 continues to be reported in multiple countries, and its prevalence has rapidly increased globally.

“Due to its rapidly increasing spread, WHO is classifying JN.1 as a separate variant of interest (VOI) from the parent lineage BA.2.86,” the global health body.

The WHO evaluated the additional global public health risk posed by JN.1 as “low, based on the available yet limited evidence,” but warned, “It is anticipated that this variant may cause an increase in SARS-CoV-2 cases amid a surge of infections of other viral and bacterial infections, especially in countries entering the winter season.”

The JN.1 variant has been reported in the USA, China, Singapore and India, according to India’s health ministry. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

With inputs from PTI

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