India has reported 21 cases of the new Covid variant, the JN.1 sub-type, which include 19 from Goa, and one each from Maharashtra and Kerala; while the Union Health Ministry has reasserted States to send in samples for genome sequencing.

While one death has been reported with JN.1 being claimed as the cause, an official confirmation on the same is awaited.

So far, Health Ministry has maintained that the JN.1 variant of SARS-CoV-2, which is categorised as “low risk” and a “variant of interest” by the WHO, is under “intense scientific scrutiny”.

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Officials say, the variant is “not a cause of immediate concern” and there has been no clustering of cases observed in India (due to JN.1). All the cases were found to be mild and all of them have recovered without any complications.

The first JN.1 case was confirmed last week from Kerala. Apart from India, the sub-variant has so far been reported in countries that include Singapore, China and the US. Current vaccines are said to be effective on the strain.

Vax Stocks

Incidentally, hospitals say they are out of vaccine stocks.

Most of the stocks they had were over an-year-old and many of them had expired. Hence, these were disposed off.

“We don’t have any demand nor have people been coming to us for taking Covid vaccines. Now, if there is an upsurge and some mandate come up, we will place orders through Cowin or with the government,” representative of a hospital told businessline.

States to Up Vigil

In a high level meeting chaired by the Union Minister of Health, Mansukh Mandaviya, it was said that States need “to be on alert” over rising Covid cases, and the emergence of the new sub-variants. It was also decided that mock drills – to ascertain preparedness of hospital infra, ventilators, staff readiness and even medicine availability – will be carried out once in every three months.

Also read: There should be no laxity in our preparedness, says Mandaviya at high-level meet amid rising Covid cases

Directions were given 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. States were also asked “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”.

Awareness creating on SARS and ILI and other pneumonia type diseases were also stressed upon.

Rising Covid Cases

According to Dr Bishnu Panigrahi, Group Head, Medical Strategy and Operations, Fortis Healthcare, increased incidents of Covid have been reported from South India. However, hospitals are working on their infrastructure and preparedness.

“The spike is higher in South and genome sequencing is being carried out at the government levels to determine the vax efficacies. From the hospital’s side we are telling people to wear masks if they are in crowded public places or using public transport,” he told businessline

Incidentally, India has seen a sudden spike in Covid cases. Over the last one week, there has been an addition of 500-odd infections. As on date, there are 614 cases, against 115 during December 6.

Active Covid cases in the country stand at around 2,300, with 500-odd additions being reported on a 24-hour basis. Deaths in the last week were reported at 16.

“There is some concern around Goa. But the upsurge is due to JN.1 sub variant. As of now, what we understand, it causes mild disease and not a serious one. And 92 per cent of the recoveries have been at home. Deaths were reported mostly among those with severe co-morbidities,” VK Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog, said.