India on Thursday reported six

Covid deaths

— three from Kerala, two from Karnataka and one from Punjab — and 594 new cases of the coronavirus infection. Top officials in the health ministry said the Covid deaths are being reported mostly among people suffering from

serious illness

. “Covid-19 isn’t causing severe symptoms or deaths, as per the available data. Most people who are testing positive for the disease have mild symptoms only and they are recovering at home,” said an official.
He added that the government has no plans to issue any travel advisory yet or to make RT-PCR mandatory at the airports — as was done earlier during the previous peaks in Covid-19 cases in the first, second or the third wave of the pandemic.

“We have stepped up surveillance. In case the threat perception changes, suitable action will be taken to prevent any crisis,” said a senior health ministry official.

It is suspected that the current surge in Covid-19 cases is being caused by the spread of JN.1 sub-variant, a descendent of BA.2.86 or Pirola variant, which has been reported in the US, China, Singapore, and several other countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared JN.1 a variant of interest (VoI).

“Previously, JN.1 was tracked as part of BA.2.86, the parent lineage that is classified as a variant of interest (VOI). However, in recent weeks, JN.1 continues to be reported in multiple countries, and its prevalence has been rapidly increasing globally and now represents the vast majority of BA.2.86 descendant lineages reported to GISAID.Due to its rapidly increasing spread, WHO is classifying JN.1 as a separate variant of interest (VOI) from the parent lineage BA.2.86,” the UN health body said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

It added that considering the available, yet limited evidence, the additional public health risk posed by JN.1 is currently evaluated as low at the global level. It is anticipated that this variant may cause an increase in SARS-CoV-2 cases amid a surge of infections of other viral and bacterial infections, especially in countries entering the winter season, the WHO said.
India has so far reported 21 cases of JN.1 variant – 19 from Goa and one each from Kerala and Maharashtra. Union health secretary Sudhansh Pant gave a presentation to the health ministers of all states in a meeting chaired by health minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Wednesday. Pant said the JN.1 variant is currently under intense scientific scrutiny, but not a cause of immediate concern. “No clustering of cases has been observed in India due to JN.1 and all the cases were found to be mild and all of them have recovered,” he said.

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