‘Variant of interest, not concern’: Ex-WHO chief scientist on new Covid scare | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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‘Variant of interest, not concern’: Ex-WHO chief scientist on new Covid variant scare

Dec 21, 2023 09:46 PM IST

India has so far confirmed 21 cases of the JN.1 Covid variant.

Amid the rising new JN.1 Covid-19 variant scare, former World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan asserted that there is no need to panic currently as it is a variant of interest and not of concern. However, she urged people to be cautious by taking proper precautionary measures.

Former World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan (Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)
Former World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan (Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)

“We need to be cautious, but we don't need to worry because we don't have any data to suggest that this variant JN.1 is more severe or it's going to cause more pneumonia, or more deaths…So I think what we need to do is try to take the normal preventive measures that we are all now familiar with,” Dr Swaminathan said while speaking to news agency ANI.

She added, “…We're all now very familiar with Omicron. So it's the same family. So not much has changed, but 1 or 2 new mutations have come up. And that's why I think WHO has said let's keep a watch on it. It's a variant of interest. It's not a variant of concern.”

Speaking about the precautionary measures, the former WHO chief scientist urged people to wear masks and avoid going to closed crowded spaces with poor ventilation. “If you have symptoms, stay at home. Wash your hands regularly. If you have prolonged symptoms then do visit the hospital…Masking is not mandatory but it should be voluntary. There are also common sense things, we should encourage each other,” she said.

On the number of hospitalisations due to Covid, Dr Swaminathan said, “When the number of cases go up, there is always a small percent of people who need to be hospitalised. So if you have 100 people with infections, 1 person may need to be hospitalised…if you have 1 lakh people, 100 may need to be hospitalized…So that way you will see there’s an increase in hospitalisation but hopefully it will not come to that this time.”

India has so far confirmed 21 cases of the JN.1 Covid variant, sparking both attention and concern across the nation. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently classified JN.1 as a variant of interest, distinct from its parent lineage BA.2.86. However, the global health body emphasised that the overall risk posed by JN.1 remains low based on current evidence.

Meanwhile, India on Thursday recorded 594 fresh COVID-19 infections - taking the number of active cases from 2,311 the previous day to 2,669, according to Union health ministry data.

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