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Ramp up Covid testing, Centre tells states amid surge in cases

K’taka makes masks must for elderly | Of 1,828 positive, 1,634 in Kerala

Ramp up Covid testing, Centre tells states amid surge in cases

People with masks at a hospital in Kochi on Monday. PTI



Tribune News Service

Aksheev Thakur

New Delhi December 18

In the wake of the detection of JN.1 Covid sub-variant in Kerala and surge in Covid cases, the Centre on Monday issued an advisory asking the states to ramp up testing and send positive samples to the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium for genome-sequencing to check for new variants.

The JN.1 sub-variant

  • Emerged in late 2023 as descendant of BA.2.86 lineage (Pirola)
  • Considered a ‘variant of interest’ by the WHO
  • On Dec 16, a woman, 79, tested positive in Kerala
  • Has been reported in the US, China, Singapore and India
  • No indication of increased severity from JN.1
  • Existing line of treatment for Covid-19 effective against JN.1

Karnataka, meanwhile, today became the first state to again make wearing of masks mandatory for senior citizens and people with respiratory issues. At present, there are 1,828 active Covid cases in the country, of which 1,634 are in Kerala.

Union Health Secretary Sudhanshu Pant has asked the states to take measures to minimise transmission of the disease considering the upcoming festive season.

“States are advised to ensure adequate testing in all districts as per Covid-19 testing guidelines and maintain the recommended share of RT-PCR and antigen tests,” the advisory read. It also asked the states to monitor and report district-wise influenza-like illness (ILI) & severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) cases in all health facilities for detecting the trend of cases.

Karnataka Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao ordered the state authorities to ramp up testing of those having Covid-type symptoms and heighten surveillance in the districts bordering Kerala.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Covid-19 technical lead of the World Health Organisation, said, “It’s not just Covid-19 that’s circulating. We have influenza, other viruses and bacteria. In other parts of the world, we are entering the winter months and people are starting to gather for the holiday season. As people gather, they spend more time indoors. If there is poor ventilation, these pathogens spread efficiently.” The Union Health Minister is likely to hold a review meeting on December 20.

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The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.

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