While WHO has classified this as a “variant of concern”, there have been 6 death reported so far in India already.
Addressing the Surge in COVID Cases and the Emergence of JN.1 Strain: Health Ministry’s Response
Governmental Concern and Action:
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya recently chaired a meeting with state health officials to address the escalating COVID-19 cases and the discovery of the new JN.1 strain. He emphasized that despite progress, the pandemic isn’t over, urging states to closely monitor this new sub-variant.
Understanding JN.1 Strain:
The Health Ministry clarified that while the JN.1 strain is under rigorous scientific investigation, there’s no immediate cause for alarm. It’s been highlighted that India hasn’t observed any clustering of cases linked to JN.1. Reported cases were mild, with all patients recovering without complications.
WHO’s Classification and India’s Scenario:
The World Health Organization classified JN.1 as a “variant of interest,” asserting a low risk to public health based on current evidence. Meanwhile, in India, active COVID cases have surged from 115 to 614 within two weeks, albeit with 92.8% of cases showing mild symptoms and managing home isolation.
Concerns and Precautionary Measures:
Although India’s active cases remain relatively low compared to global figures, certain states like Kerala, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, and Karnataka have witnessed a rise in daily positivity rates. The Health Ministry underscored the need for preparedness against emerging strains, citing a surge in COVID cases globally.
Strengthening Surveillance and Preparedness:
Mandaviya emphasized collaborative efforts between the Centre and states, urging robust surveillance and genome sequencing of COVID-positive samples through INSACOG. States have been urged to increase testing, refer samples for sequencing, and ensure sufficient medical supplies, including medicines, oxygen, ventilators, and vaccines.
Ensuring Infrastructure Readiness:
To fortify preparedness, officials were directed to conduct mock drills regularly to assess the functionality of critical healthcare infrastructure such as PSA plants, oxygen concentrators, cylinders, and ventilators. The Minister stressed the importance of public awareness campaigns to counter misinformation and maintain respiratory hygiene.
Whole-of-Government Approach and Scientific Investigation:
NITI Aayog member V.K. Paul emphasized the need for a unified approach to address the COVID surge and the new variant challenge. Scientific scrutiny of the JN.1 variant continues in India, with health research departments closely monitoring while advocating increased testing and reinforced surveillance at the state level.
ICMR’s Efforts and Cautionary Approach:
Rajiv Bahl from ICMR revealed ongoing genome sequencing of the JN.1 variant, emphasizing the need for monitoring without causing undue panic. He stressed the importance of scaling up RT-PCR tests and vigilant observation without instigating undue fear among the public.
The Health Ministry’s proactive approach emphasizes a vigilant stance against the emerging JN.1 strain while advocating increased surveillance, testing, and preparedness measures. The collaboration between the Centre, states, and scientific bodies aims to tackle the surge in cases and new variants effectively while ensuring timely and informed responses to the evolving COVID situation.