Centre Issues Advisory to States Following COVID-19 Surge and Detection of JN.1 Variant in India

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New Delhi, 18th December 2023: In response to a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in select States/UTs across India and the identification of the first case of the new JN.1 variant of COVID-19 in the country, Sudhansh Pant, Union Health Secretary, has dispatched a letter to States/UTs, emphasizing the imperative of maintaining constant vigilance over the evolving COVID situation in the nation.

Pant highlighted the collaborative efforts between the Centre and State Governments that have thus far sustained a trajectory at sustainable low rates. However, acknowledging the continuous circulation of the COVID-19 virus and its evolving epidemiological behavior in the context of Indian weather conditions and concurrent pathogens, he stressed the importance of sustaining momentum to effectively confront public health challenges.

The Union Health Secretary underscored critical strategies for COVID control and management, including:

1. Festive Season Preparedness: States were advised to implement necessary public health measures and arrangements to minimize the risk of increased disease transmission during the upcoming festive season. Emphasis was placed on maintaining respiratory hygiene.

2. Compliance with Operational Guidelines: States were urged to ensure effective compliance with the detailed operational guidelines for the revised surveillance strategy for COVID-19, provided by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The guidelines can be accessed here.

3. Monitoring and Reporting: States were directed to monitor and report district-wise Influenza-like Illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) cases regularly across all health facilities. This information should be included in the Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP) portal to detect early rising trends in cases.

4. Testing Strategies: States were advised to ensure adequate testing in all districts following COVID-19 testing guidelines and maintaining the recommended proportion of RT-PCR and Antigen tests.

5. Genome Sequencing: Encouragement was given for an increased number of RT-PCR tests, with positive samples sent for genome sequencing to Indian SARS COV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) laboratories. This measure aims to enable timely detection of new variants, if any.

6. Health Facility Preparedness: States were called upon to actively engage both public and private health facilities in a drill conducted by the Union Health Ministry. This would assess their preparedness and response capacities.

7. Community Awareness: States were tasked with promoting community awareness to garner continued support in managing COVID-19, emphasizing the importance of adhering to respiratory hygiene.

The advisory serves as a proactive measure to equip States with comprehensive guidelines and strategies to navigate the evolving dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.