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India Urges Stricter Measures as New JN.1 Variant Emerges, Sparking Concerns”

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In response to a surge in Covid-19 cases, particularly in Kerala, the central government of India has recommended that all states implement stricter public health measures. The concerns are amplified by the detection of a newly identified sub-type of Covid-19, JN.1, on December 8 in Kerala. The variant, a descendant of a sub-variant of Omicron, is raising worries due to its ability to bypass immunity acquired from previous vaccination or infection.

Rising Concerns Over JN.1 Variant In India

The emergence of the JN.1 variant (BA.2.86.1.1) has prompted health authorities to call for increased vigilance and preparedness. This comes more than two years after India’s initial pandemic-induced lockdown. The variant is considered a ‘variant of interest’ by the World Health Organization (WHO) and has been identified in various countries, including the United States, China, Singapore, and India.

Government’s Letter to States

On Monday, Health Secretary Sudhansh Pant sent a letter to all states and Union territories, emphasizing the need for continuous monitoring of the Covid-19 situation. The letter underscores the importance of sustained efforts to effectively deal with public health challenges. The government has urged states to adhere closely to operational guidelines, ensuring comprehensive testing in every district.

Monitoring and Reporting Guidelines

States have been requested to monitor and report influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory illness cases in all health facilities regularly. This data should be reported in the Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP) portal to detect early rising trends in cases. The government has also asked states to submit positive samples for genome sequencing to the Indian SARS COV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) laboratories to identify any new virus variants.

Assessment of Preparedness and Response Capacities

In an effort to assess the preparedness and response capacities of health facilities, the Union health ministry has organized an exercise. The government has urged states to ensure the participation of all public and private health facilities in this assessment.

Regional Response in Karnataka

In response to the emergence of the new Covid-19 variant in Kerala, the Karnataka government has mandated that individuals aged 60 and above, as well as those with underlying health conditions, must wear masks in public places.

Global Concerns and WHO Designation

Globally, the JN.1 variant has garnered attention, leading the WHO to classify it as a ‘variant of interest.’ The proactive measures recommended by the Indian government reflect a commitment to tackling the potential threat posed by the variant and ensuring the nation’s health infrastructure is well-prepared to address emerging challenges.

As India faces the evolving landscape of the Covid-19 pandemic, the call for stricter measures and heightened vigilance underscores the importance of a coordinated and proactive response to safeguard public health.

ALSO READ: INDIA RECORDS OVER 11,000 NEW COVID CASES, ACTIVE INFECTIONS NEARS 50,000 IN 24 HOURS; DEATH COUNT RISES BY 0.5%

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