The World Health OrganiZation has classified the SARS-CoV-2 sub-variant JN.1 as a separate variant of interest (VOI) from its parent lineage BA.2.86, due to its rapidly increasing spread. This new variant was recently found in Kerala. In this episode of businessline’s News Explained, Anjana PV and Jyothi Datta discuss the emergence of the JN.1 variant, the potential implications of this new variant, its origins, and the ongoing surge in Covid-19 cases. 

Jyothi explains that the JN.1 variant is a sub-variant of the SARS-CoV-2, which initially caused the pandemic. The variant is considered a part of a lineage that includes well-known variants like omicron. Currently, health authorities such as the Union Health Ministry of India, WHO, and CDC suggest that there is no significant increase in public health risk from the variant based on available evidence. 

The classification of JN.1 as a variant of interest rather than as part of a larger family of variants is highlighted in this podcast. This change in classification is attributed to a spike in cases linked to the JN.1 variant. The discussion moves on to the situation in India, where the first case of the JN.1 variant was detected in Kerala. 

Jyothi emphasises the need for surveillance and precautionary measures in response to the detection of the variant in India, despite the absence of a call for panic. She also states that current vaccines are seen to protect against severe disease and death, and there is no widespread call for booster shots at the moment. However, she acknowledges that vulnerable populations, such as those with weakened immune systems, may need to consult their doctors regarding booster shots. 

The podcast also dives into the possibility of future variants and the importance of continuing basic public health measures. Jyothi emphasises the need for common sense in navigating the upcoming festive season, advocating for handwashing, mask-wearing, and other preventive measures. 

Tune in to know more about the JN.1 Variant.