The Masks Are Back: Singapore Registers 56,000 Additional Covid-19 Cases; New Subvariant JN.1 Detected in China and India

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With half a lakh COVID-19 cases in Singapore, a new sub-variant JN.1 in Kerala, and eight fresh cases in Tamil Nadu, the call for masks around the globe is back.

In a fresh surge, Singapore recorded 56,000 more cases in a week, leading the Health Ministry to issue an advisory for citizens and travellers. An estimated number of 56,043 cases COVID-19 cases were recorded in the week of December 3 to 9 2023, rising from 32,035 cases in the previous week, according to the ministry.

Chinese mainland detected seven mild and asymptomatic cases of contracting the COVID-19 subvariant JN.1 in about a month, with at least 40 other countries reporting the subvariant, as of December 10. According to a Beijing-based immunologist, more cases of the JN.1 variant are expected as the virus has no boundary. But it is not a concern of the public because new variants of the novel coronavirus can appear in the future, Global Times reported.

The infections in China are at a low epidemic level with no unknown viruses or bacteria found during the monitoring of respiratory pathogens in China, according to Chinese health authorities, a Global Times report stated. The World Health Organization (WHO), according to the report, on November 21, adjusted BA.2.86 from a variant requiring global surveillance to a variant requiring attention, evaluating the risk of clinical severe infection as low and the overall assessment of public health risk as low.

In the United States, seventeen states have reported “high” or “very high” levels of respiratory illness activity as Covid-19 and other flu hospitalizations increased, ABC News quoted new federal data. In the fourth consecutive week (ending December 9), COVID-19 hospitalizations rose to 23,432, according to data updated last Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In the past month, for all age groups, hospitalisations have increased 200 per cent for COVID-19 and 51 per cent for flu in the US, the ABC News report stated. The CDC has, moreover, sent an alert to healthcare providers, encouraging them to administer COVID-19, flu and RSV vaccines as soon as possible, the report said.

Back in India, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin upgraded the medical infrastructure in the state, while Health Minister Ma Subramaniam urged people not to panic about reports of the spike in cases in neighbouring Kerala.

case of JN.1, a sub-variant of COVID-19 currently spreading in the United States and China, has also been found in Kerala as part of the ongoing routine surveillance by INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium).

The Union Health Ministry is in contact with Kerala health authorities to monitor the situation at points of entry, while a mock drill is being held at all health facilities across various states through district collectors as part of a regular exercise to assess their public health and hospital preparedness measures. This drive will be completed by December 18.

According to a report in The Indian Express, the sub-variant JN.1 is a close relative of the BA.2.86 variant, commonly referred to as Pirola. It carries just one additional mutation in the spike protein as compared to its relative. Mutations on the spike protein of Sars-CoV-2 are important because they are the ones that attach to receptors on human cells and allow the virus to enter it.

Karnataka has currently lodged 58 active cases of Covid-19, stated Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao. Testing has been increased in the hospitals. “We have started purchasing RT-PCR kits and Rapid Antigen Tests. We will keep an extra vigil on border area hospitals, nursing and health centres so that we can pick up any early rise in cases,” Rao told The Indian Express.

Amid reports of a new COVID-19 variant, Rao said, “So far in the last three months, we have had one death due to COVID-19 but the person who died had other co-morbidities also.” The state Covid-19 Technical Advisory Committee will meet on December 19 to discuss the impact of the JN.1 subvariant.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Kashmir Monitor staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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