In response to a surge in daily COVID-19 positivity rates in states like Kerala, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, and Karnataka, the Union Health Ministry issued an alert on Wednesday. Contrary to concerns, no clustering of cases was reported in the new JN.1 variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The Ministry assured that the JN.1 variant, classified separately by the World Health Organization (WHO), is under scientific scrutiny but not an immediate cause for concern. All recorded JN.1 cases were mild, with full recoveries and no complications.
NITI Aayog Member (Health) V.K. Paul stated that India identified 21 cases of the JN.1 sub-variant, with 91%-92% opting for home-based treatment. Notably, 19 cases were traced in Goa, and one each in Kerala and Maharashtra. Despite a rise in active cases over the past two weeks, 92.8% of cases were home isolated, indicating mild illness.
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya reassured that the increase in the daily positivity rate did not translate into higher hospitalization rates for COVID-19. Hospitalized cases were primarily due to other medical conditions, with COVID-19 as an incidental finding.
The WHO’s classification of JN.1 as a separate variant of interest reflects its rapid spread. However, the global public health risk is currently considered low. Vaccines continue to protect against severe disease and death from JN.1 and other circulating variants.
The Health Ministry directed the strengthening of surveillance for whole genome sequencing through the INSACOG network, ensuring timely detection of newer variants. States were urged to ramp up testing, refer samples for sequencing, and undertake mock drills to assess preparedness.
With a focus on the festive season, the Ministry emphasized the need to stay vigilant, increase surveillance, and ensure adequate stock of medical supplies. It called for states to monitor emerging evidence, create awareness, and share real-time information on the COVID portal.
As India records 614 new COVID-19 infections, the highest since May 21, the Ministry reiterates that the COVID-19 challenge persists. The total case tally is 45 million, with a recovery rate of 98.81%. The death toll stands at 533,321, prompting continued efforts to manage and mitigate the impact of the virus.