21 cases of new Covid variant JN. 1 reported across country

New Delhi, Dec 20 (IANS) The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday said that 21 cases of the new variant JN.1 have been reported from across the country.

The source said that 19 cases of the new coronavirus variant has been reported from Goa while one each from Maharashtra and Kerala.

Earlier in the day, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya chaired a high-level meeting to review the Covid-19 situation in India and preparedness of public health system for its surveillance, containment, and management in view of the recent spike in cases in some states.

The meeting was also attended by Union Ministers of State for Health and Family Welfare, Prof S.P. Singh Baghel and Dr Bharati Pravin Pawar, and NITI Aayog’s Member, Health, Dr V.K. Paul, Member.

State Health Ministers Alo Libang (Arunachal Pradesh), Brajesh Pathak (Uttar Pradesh), Dhan Singh Rawat, (Uttarakhand), Dinesh Gundu Rao, (Karnataka), Anil Vij (Haryana), Veena George (Kerala), Vishwajit Pratapsingh Rane (Goa), Keshab Mahanta (Assam), Banna Gupta, (Jharkhand), Dr Balbir Singh (Punjab), Saurabh Bharadwaj (Delhi); Dr. (Col.) Dhani Ram Shandil (retd) (Himachal Pradesh); Prof Dr. Tanajirao Sawant (Maharashtra), Damodar Rajanarasimha (Telangana), Dr Sapam Ranjan (Manipur), and Niranjan Pujari (Odisha) were also present, among others.

During the meeting, Mandaviya underlined the challenge posed by the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in some countries across the world such as China, Brazil, Germany, and the US and noted the importance of being prepared and remaining alert against new and emerging strains of Covid-19, especially in view of the upcoming festive season.

He also reiterated that Covid is not over yet, and requested states to monitor emerging evidences of Covid-19 cases, symptoms and case severity to plan appropriate public health response.

Mandaviya also stressed the need for collective efforts between the Centre and the States to deal with the emerging situation in the spirit of “Whole of Government” approach. He directed for strengthening the surveillance system for whole genome sequencing of positive case samples to track the variants through Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) network to ensure timely detection of newer variants, circulating in the country.

“This would facilitate undertaking of appropriate public health measures in a timely manner,” he noted.

“States/UTs have been requested to ramp up testing and refer large number of samples of Covid-19 positive cases and pneumonia-like illness to INSACOG Genome Sequencing Laboratories (IGSLs) on a daily basis, for sequencing, to track new variants, if any,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Union Health Minister also urged all the states to remain alert, increase surveillance and ensure adequate stock of medicines, oxygen cylinders and concentrators, ventilators, and vaccines.

Mandaviya asked officials to undertake mock drills every three months at both the Central and State levels to assess functionality of PSA plants, oxygen concentrators and cylinders, ventilators, etc., and encouraged the sharing of best practices.

He also urged states to create awareness on respiratory hygiene and ensure dissemination of factually correct information and counter fake news to manage infodemic and mitigate any panic.

The Union Health Minister urged States/UTs to share information on cases, tests, positivity etc., in real time on the Covid portal to enable timely monitoring and prompt public health measures. He assured the states of all support from the Centre.

Union Health Secretary Sudhansh Pant briefed the meeting on the global Covid-19 situation and the domestic scenario.

Pant said that while active Covid cases in India are significantly less compared to the global scenario, in the last two weeks, there has been a steep rise in active cases from 115 on December 6 to 614 on date.

It was also noted that 92.8 per cent of the cases are home isolated, indicating mild illness.

“No increase in hospitalisation rates have been witnessed due to Covid-19, the cases that are hospitalised are due to other medical conditions – Covid-19 is an incidental finding. A rise in daily positivity rate has been observed in a few states like Kerala, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Karnataka.

“On the new JN.1 variant of SARS-CoV-2, it was informed that the variant is currently under intense scientific scrutiny, but not a cause of immediate concern. No clustering of cases has been observed in India due to JN.1 and all the cases were found to be mild and all of them have recovered without any complications,” the ministry added.

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