The novel Covid sub-variant and its future were discussed privately with NDTV by Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, a former top scientist of the World Health Organisation, and Dr. Rajeev Jayadevan, a co-chairman of the National Indian Medical Association Covid Task Force.
More than six months after the Omicron pandemic hit India, two distinguished medical specialists have issued a dire warning about the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the nation as a result of the discovery of the JN.1 sub-variant of Omicron. Thirty percent of all patients with influenza-like diseases who were tested in the Kochi region during a 24-hour period tested positive for Covid, according to Dr. Rajeev Jayadevan, Co-Chairman of the National Indian Medical Association Covid Task Force.
Former WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, who also spoke exclusively to NDTV, has advised against writing off Covid as a common cold due to the illness’s long-term consequences, which include an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and mental health issues. This is in addition to the cases of severe illness.
But while being more contagious, the variation might not result in many hospital admissions, according to both experts, in part because of India’s high immunisation rate. Additionally, Dr. Swaminathan noted that India’s health services have advanced significantly since the first wave in 2020 and the deadlier Delta wave in 2021, and the nation is equipped to manage a spike in cases.
In addition to outlining preventative measures, Dr. Swaminathan emphasised the necessity for older adults and those with weakened immune systems to begin donning masks.
Official data indicates that there have been 21 cases of the JN.1 sub-variant reported in India to date, with one case each in Kerala and Maharashtra and 19 in Goa. Dr. Jayadevan commented on the spread of Covid, saying, “Over the past month or so, the number of Covid cases has been creeping up.” He put a chart on X showing the growth in cases since November. However, as you are aware, testing is extremely low in our nation—nearly nonexistent in many areas for a variety of reasons. However, if you examine the data that I included on the graph for the months of September, October, November, and December, you will see that there is a notable increase in November.”
“Just around 1% of influenza-like infections tested positive for Covid before November, which is essentially nonexistent. However, since November, we have experienced roughly 9%. And it was thirty percent in December following last night’s meeting. Additionally, several hospitals in the (Kochi) area provided this data. This indicates that Covid is causing an increased proportion of influenza-like illnesses, which include cough, fever, body aches, and respiratory issues,” the physician continued. Although JN.1 is thought to be the fastest-rising variety, according to Dr. Jayadevan, this does not necessarily translate into an increase in cases; rather, it simply means that JN.1 is “dominating the Covid landscape”, He also mentioned that although the number of instances is rising, people are still able to manage the symptoms at home.