In response to an increase in COVID-19 instances and respiratory ailments, especially in Kerala, the Indian government has issued a national warning and asked states to remain under “continuous vigil.”

Kerala now possesses the first instance of the novel JN.1, an Omicron subvariant, and is home to 88.78% of all current COVID cases.

115 of the 142 new COVID cases that were reported on Monday, according to statistics from the Indian government, were from Kerala.

However, Veena George, the state minister of health, stated that there is no need for concern because the “situation is under control.”

All patients attending the hospitals are urged to wear masks, and as Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi are reporting larger numbers of cases, they are encouraged to exercise particular caution there.

“With the festive season approaching, it is imperative to implement necessary public health measures and other arrangements to minimize the risk of increased disease transmission through adherence to respiratory hygiene maintenance,” stated a warning from the Indian government.

Additionally, the federal government instructed the states to keep an eye on respiratory illness cases per district.

States are also instructed to make sure that COVID testing is conducted by established protocols. “To enable timely detection of new variants, if any, ensure a higher number of RT-PCR tests and send the positive samples for genome sequencing to the Indian SARS COV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) laboratories,” the advice stated.

“Surround the community with information to ask for their ongoing assistance in controlling COVID-19, including maintaining respiratory hygiene,” it stated.

Monday saw 142 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total to 1,970 cases. According to India’s health ministry, there were 260 and 335 cases on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, and two deaths were reported—one in Kerala and one in the neighboring state of Karnataka.

The Kerala Health Department, which is keeping an eye on many ports of entry, is in frequent communication with the ministry.

So what’s JN.1 subvariant?

JN.1 is strongly linked to BA.2.86, another descendant of the Omicron that first appeared in the US in September. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claim that except from a minor variation in their spike proteins—the portion of the virus that permits it to enter human cells—the two variations are almost similar.

According to the CDC, JN.1 is either more infectious or more adept at evading our bodies’ immune systems than earlier strains of the virus, as evidenced by the fact that it is the cause of an increasing percentage of illnesses in the US.

However, there is no proof that it results in more serious illness.

Although JN.1 may increase the rate of transmission, the CDC notes that there is currently no evidence to suggest that it is any more harmful than other virus strains.

What are the symptoms of the new variant?

The same primary symptoms that characterized earlier versions are probably still present: fever, exhaustion, headache, congestion, coughing, and painful or scratchy throat.

Do vaccines, tests, and treatments work against JN.1?

According to the CDC, the early indicators are promising. It is anticipated that COVID-19 diagnostics and therapies would be successful against JN.1. Furthermore, early research indicates that the most recent COVID-19 booster dose also produces antibodies that function against JN.1, albeit in smaller quantities, even though it was intended to target the XBB.1.5 variety. (As always, vaccinations should lower the risk of mortality and serious illness but won’t completely prevent JN.1 infections.)

The WHO’s knowledgeable COVID-19 vaccine advisory panel advised continuing to use the existing XBB.1.5 vaccinations in a statement released on December 13, since they appear to offer some degree of cross protection.

What does WHO say?

What is said by WHO?Notably, JN.1 is not classified as a variety of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is a novel strain of SARS-CoV-2 virus that may be more severe, less effective against vaccination, or have significant effects on the provision of healthcare.

The WHO warned that the virus is altering and adapting in response to the spike in respiratory illnesses and the discovery of the novel JN.1 COVID subvariant. The organization also asked member nations to maintain stringent monitoring and sequence sharing.

Is there a cause for concern?

Veena George, the minister of health for Kerala, has reassured the public that they shouldn’t be concerned. But Veena urged everyone to exercise caution.

“There’s no reason to worry. The COVID-19 sub-strain JN.1 is a sub-variant of that. When they were tested in the Singapore airport two or three months ago, it was found in Indians, according to George.

“Genomic sequencing allowed us to discover it because Kerala’s health system is so excellent. Don’t worry about it. We are keeping a close eye on the circumstances. However, we must be vigilant. It is important to look after those who have comorbidities, she continued.

The health authorities in Kerala emphasize the need for continued attention and preparation to appropriately handle the growing situation connected to COVID-19 variations, even if the majority of cases are considered to be clinically mild.

What are the neighboring states doing?

The Commissioner of Health and Family Welfare Services released an advisory with many suggestions on Tuesday in response to the rise in COVID cases in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, raising concerns about a potential new spike over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

The guidelines state that wearing a face mask outdoors is mandatory for all elderly individuals 60 years of age and older, those with comorbid conditions (liver, heart, kidney), pregnant women, and nursing mothers. They also advise against going to closed, poorly ventilated spaces, as well as crowded areas.

On Tuesday, Telangana reported four cases of COVID-19. People are advised to exercise caution and stay away from travel.

Pregnant women, elderly people over 60, and children under ten are urged not to go outside unless essential.

Why are Uttarakhand hospitals on high alert?

Why are hospitals in Uttarakhand on high alert?The health secretary has directed all district judges and chief medical officers (CMOs) to follow the protocols for COVID prevention in hospitals, and the Uttarakhand government is on high alert. According to the recommendation, patients with respiratory, lung, and cardiac conditions should also be thoroughly watched, and those who have influenza infections should get checked.

How about India’s readiness?

All state-wide healthcare institutions recently conducted a simulated exercise that assessed hospital preparedness and public health. District collectors oversaw this exercise.

The genetic characteristics of COVID-19 in India have been extensively monitored by the network of genomic laboratories known as the India SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG).

According to updated surveillance guidelines, individuals with influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) should be tested for COVID-19. This is by the discovery of the JN.1 subvariant. Following a positive test result, whole genome sequencing (WGS) is recommended.

On December 8, an RT-PCR positive sample from Karakulam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, revealed the particular case of JN.1.

Why did Singapore issue a travel advisory?

After a sharp rise in COVID cases to 56,043 in the first week of December, Singapore issued a travel advisory. The island country saw a jump of about 24,000 cases from December 3 and 9 compared to 32,035 reported in the previous week.

The average daily COVID hospitalizations also rose to 350 from 225 the week before, and the average daily Intensive Care Unit (ICU) cases increased to nine cases compared to four cases in the previous week, Singapore’s Ministry of Health in an update.

The JN.1 variety is responsible for the great majority of new cases, according to the ministry.

The people should “exercise personal and social responsibility,” according to Singapore. People who are ill with signs of an acute respiratory infection have been encouraged to stay at home until their symptoms go away and to avoid social interactions. “They should practice social responsibility by donning masks, limiting their social interactions, and avoiding crowded areas if they must come into contact while ill.”