Centre issues Covid advisory to states with Omicron sub-variant on the rise

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NEW DELHI : The Union government has advised all states to implement tighter public health measures to minimise transmission of the Covid-19 virus, following a rise in infections in some states, particularly Kerala.

The first case of a new sub-variant of Covid-19, JN.1, was detected on 8 December in the southern state, raising concerns about a resurgent health risk more than two years after India’s last pandemic-related lockdown.

The JN.1 variant (BA., which emerged recently, is considered a descendent of a sub-variant of Omicron with high potential for evading immunity gained earlier from vaccination or infection.

Union health secretary Sudhansh Pant on Monday issued a letter to states and Union territories highlighting the need for maintaining constant vigil over the Covid situation.

“Due to consistent and collaborative actions between centre and state governments, we have been able to sustain the trajectory at sustainable low rates," he wrote. 

“However, as the Covid-19 virus continues to circulate and its epidemiology behaviour gets settled with Indian weather conditions and circulation of other usual pathogens, it is important to keep the momentum going to effectively deal with the challenges in public health," Pant added.

The Union government has asked states to strictly comply with operational guidelines for surveillance of the Covid-19 virus, and ensure adequate testing in all districts.

“States are asked to monitor and report district-wise influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory illness cases in all health facilities on a regular basis including in the Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP) portal for detecting the early rising trend of cases," Pant said in the letter.

The government has asked states to send positive samples for genome sequencing to Indian SARS COV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) laboratories to be able to detect any new variants of the virus.

It has also asked states to ensure that all public and private health facilities participate in a drill being conducted by the Union health ministry to take stock of their “preparedness and response capacities". 

Following the presence of the new Covid-19 variant in Kerala, the Karnataka government too has made it mandatory for people above the age of 60, and those with comorbidities, to wear masks in public. 

The WHO has considered JN.1 to be a 'variant of interest'. So far, JN.1 has been detected in the US, China, Singapore, and India.

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Published: 18 Dec 2023, 08:27 PM IST