India reported 656 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, taking the country’s active caseload to 3,742. This comes even as health authorities keep a close watch on the spread of the JN.1 subvariant of Omicron, which has been detected in over 20 people across three states.

The Union Health Ministry data shows that India’s daily case count witnessed a slight increase from the 640 cases recorded on Friday. Sunday’s tally of 656 new cases is the highest single-day rise since May 21, when 714 infections were reported.

Spike in Active Cases

Along with the uptick in daily cases, India has also seen a steady rise in active cases over the past few days – from 2,669 active cases on Thursday to 3,420 on Saturday and now 3,742. Kerala continues to account for the highest number of active cases at 126, followed by Karnataka (96), Maharashtra (35), Delhi (16), Telangana (11) and Gujarat (10).

The recovery rate remains high at 98.81%, with 333 people recovering from the infection in the last 24 hours. So far, over 44.47 million people have recuperated from COVID-19 in India.


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JN.1 Variant Under Watch

Health officials have said that the recent increase in cases is not a cause for panic yet, but stressed on remaining vigilant. This comes even as authorities closely monitor the spread of the new JN.1 subvariant of Omicron.

So far, 22 JN.1 cases have been detected across India – 19 in Goa, 1 in Kerala and 2 in Maharashtra. The variant is said to be highly transmissible and has become one of the fastest spreading COVID strains globally over the past couple of weeks.

In India, no clustering of JN.1 cases has been reported yet and all detected cases have displayed mild symptoms. However, experts have warned that constant genomic surveillance is key to stay on top of emerging variants.


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Preventive Measures Advised

In view of the rising cases, the Union Health Ministry has advised states to ensure adequate testing, promote COVID-appropriate behaviour and increase vaccination coverage – especially precaution doses for vulnerable groups.

Although no lockdowns have been reimposed, the government has asked people with comorbidities and the elderly to continue wearing masks in public places as a precautionary measure against infection.


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Vaccination Drive Continues

India’s COVID vaccination programme also continues to make steady progress, with over 220.67 crore doses administered across the country so far. Health officials have credited the high vaccination rate behind India’s ability to keep the pandemic under control even with emergence of new variants.

Uptake of precaution doses is also being encouraged, but so far only about 4% of the targeted population has taken their third shot. Improving booster coverage remains a priority for health authorities amid the slight rise in cases.

Way Forward

As the festive season nears its end, experts believe cases may continue to inch up due to increased social gatherings but are optimistic the situation will remain under control if surveillance and vaccination efforts are ramped up.

The key remains quickly identifying any emerging hotspots and ensuring optimal healthcare infrastructure to treat any rise in infections. With no evidence yet of increased JN.1 severity or vaccine evasion, authorities are hopeful the variant can be contained before it becomes more problematic.

But experts have warned against complacency, stressing that the pandemic is far from over. They advise sticking to basic preventive measures like masks and hand hygiene as much as possible while resuming normal activities. Dynamic policymaking based on latest evidence will also be the need of the hour.

Overall, while India has made great progress in its fight against COVID-19, it will require sustained efforts on surveillance, testing, vaccination and adherence to appropriate behaviour to maintain control over the pandemic.

 

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