A surge in new COVID-19 cases has been observed in India within the last 24 hours, with Kerala being the primary contributor.
Out of 423 reported cases, Kerala accounted for 266, and neighboring Karnataka reported 70, according to data from the Union health ministry.
Two deaths occurred in Kerala and the total active cases in the country stood at 3,420.
Addressing concerns about a new coronavirus variant, former WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan emphasized caution but stated that there's no need to panic as the variant is currently classified as one of interest, not concern. She urged people to take precautionary measures. The variant, JN.1, has been classified as a variant of interest by WHO, distinct from its parent lineage BA.2.86. Despite an increase in COVID-19 cases globally, the WHO notes a decrease in new deaths.
As of December 17, over 772 million confirmed cases and nearly seven million deaths have been reported worldwide. JN.1's risk is currently evaluated as low, but with the onset of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, it could heighten respiratory infections. Current vaccines remain effective against severe outcomes from JN.1 and other SARS-CoV-2 variants.
The WHO advises continued preventive measures, including mask-wearing, social distancing, respiratory etiquette, hand hygiene, and testing for symptoms or exposure. Additionally, the WHO highlights the simultaneous circulation of influenza, RSV, and common childhood pneumonia, urging comprehensive measures to combat respiratory diseases.