Centre Urges Vigilance and Conducts Mock Drills as COVID Cases Surge in India, Linked to JN.1 Sub-Variant
Written by Sanjay Kumar
In response to a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases, particularly in Kerala, the Union Health Ministry convened a meeting on Wednesday (December 20) to address the escalating situation. The surge is attributed to the emergence of the JN.1 sub-variant of the COVID virus, recently identified in Kerala.
India has reported a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases, with 614 new infections recorded in the past 24 hours—the highest since May 21, according to data from the Union Health Ministry. The death toll has reached 5,33,321, while on a positive note, 4,44,70,346 people have successfully recovered, resulting in a national recovery rate of 98.81%.
The case fatality rate stands at 1.19%, and the country has administered a total of 220.67 crore COVID vaccine doses, as reported by the health ministry’s website.
In a meeting led by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, central authorities reviewed the situation and devised strategies to curb the rising numbers. Key points discussed included emphasizing the importance of vigilance against new strains of COVID-19 and promoting collaborative efforts between the Centre and states to effectively manage the virus. The meeting suggested regular mock drills and the sharing of best practices among states.
States have been instructed to monitor emerging evidence of COVID-19 cases and symptoms, tailoring public health responses accordingly. Additionally, they are advised to send samples of positive cases to INSACOG labs for variant tracking.
Reassuring the public, Kerala Health Minister Veena George stated that despite the increase in COVID cases in Kerala, the state is well-equipped to manage virus infections. Directives have been issued to ensure special facilities for COVID patients in hospitals.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the JN.1 coronavirus strain a “variant of interest,” emphasizing a low risk to public health based on current evidence. JN.1, previously considered part of its parent lineage BA.2.86, is now recognized as a distinct variant of interest by WHO. The organization affirmed that existing vaccines remain effective in safeguarding against severe illness and death caused by JN.1 and other prevailing variants of the COVID-19 virus.
The JN.1 variant was first identified in a 79-year-old woman from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. Detected in a sample from Karakulam on December 8, the woman had tested RT-PCR positive on November 18 and experienced mild Influenza Like Illness (ILI) symptoms, ultimately recovering from COVID-19.
Symptoms of JN.1 include mild fever, coughing, nasal discomfort, sore throat, runny nose, facial pain or pressure, headache, and gastrointestinal issues. Considered a descendant of the Omicron sub-variant BA.2.86 or Pirola, JN.1 was first detected in the United States in September 2023. China reported seven infections of this sub-variant on December 15, according to Reuters.
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