In response to an increase in infections in certain states, most notably Kerala, the Union government has recommended all states to enact stricter public health protocols to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
On December 8, the southern state reported the first case of a new sub-variant of COVID-19, JN.1, igniting concerns about a resurgent health risk over two years after India’s last pandemic-related lockdown.
The recently-emerging JN.1 variant (BA.220.127.116.11) is thought to be a descendant of an Omicron sub-variant with a high potential for eluding immunity acquired previously through infection or vaccination.
In a letter to the states and Union territories on Monday, Union health secretary Sudhansh Pant emphasised the importance of keeping a close eye on the COVID situation.
“We have been able to sustain the trajectory at sustainable low rates because of the centre and state governments’ consistent and cooperative actions,” the author wrote.
However, Pant continued, “it is crucial to maintain the momentum going to effectively deal with the challenges in public health as the Covid-19 virus continues to circulate and its epidemiology behaviour gets settled with Indian weather conditions and circulation of other usual pathogens.”
The Union government has requested that states guarantee sufficient testing in every district and closely adhere to operational guidelines for COVID-19 virus surveillance.
“In order to identify the early rising trend of cases, states are requested to regularly monitor and report district-wise influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory illness cases in all health facilities, including in the Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP) portal,” Pant stated in the letter.
In order to identify any new virus variations, the government has requested that states submit positive samples for genome sequencing to the Indian SARS COV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) laboratories.
In order to assess their “preparedness and response capacities,” the Union health ministry is holding a drill in which all public and private health facilities are required to take part.
In response to the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 variant in Kerala, the government of Karnataka has mandated that individuals over 60 and those with coexisting medical conditions wear masks when they are in public.
JN.1 is regarded as a “variant of interest” by the WHO. JN.1 has only been found in the US, China, Singapore, and India thus far.