Could JN.1 COVID variant affect your holiday travel? Where are cases rising in India, world?

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The JN.1 variant of the novel coronavirus has India and the world on alert. With the year-end holidays here, millions are travelling within the country and abroad. The surging cases might have you wondering if it is safe to continue with the plans.

In India, Kerala and Goa, both popular tourist destinations, have reported cases of JN.1. Singapore and Malaysia have seen a jump in fresh cases. The story is similar in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The JN.1 strain, a subvariant of Omicron, has been declared as a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization.

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We take a look at how fast COVID-19 is spreading in India and other countries. And what you need to watch out for if you are travelling for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Also read: JN.1 variant of COVID-19 in India: Should we be concerned?

India

India on Thursday recorded 594 fresh COVID-19 infections, which took the number of active cases from 2,311 the previous day, to 2,669, according to Union Health Ministry data.

The country has reported 26 cases of the JN.1 sub-variant so far, causing heightened attention and concern. Nineteen of these cases were detected in Goa and are confirmed as inactive. The variant was detected during genome sequencing of samples collected from patients.

Kerala reported 265 fresh COVID-19 infections and one death due to the disease in the last 24 hours, according to data on the Union Health Ministry website on Friday. One of them at least is of the JN.1 variant. In Karnataka, authorities have asked senior citizens to mask up.

Rajasthan reported two more Covid cases of the new sub-variant on Thursday, taking the overall tally of such cases in the state to four. The health department issued an advisory for the prevention and control of the infection, asking people to seek timely medical advice in case of mild cold, cough, fever, or sore throat.

Could JN1 COVID variant affect your holiday travel Where are cases rising in India world
Passengers wearing protective masks travel on an escalator at an airport terminal in New Delhi. File photo/Reuters

Maharashtra reported 11 new cases on Thursday. The first case of JN.1 was found in Sindhudurg in a patient with a travel history from Goa.

A man tested positive for COVID in the first case of the infection in Uttar Pradesh’s Gautam Buddh Nagar after several months, officials said on Thursday.

For travel: Amid a rise in cases travellers are worried that COVID restrictions will be back. There is no plan so far to make RT-PCR testing for Covid-19 mandatory at airports for travellers, sources told News18.

According to Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, co-chair of the IMA Covid Task Force, the new strain can be problematic for people of old age and those with multiple comorbidities.

Former World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said that there was no need to panic. She 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,” she added.

Could JN1 COVID variant affect your holiday travel Where are cases rising in India world
People crowd to buy Christmas decorations at a stall outside a church in Bengaluru. Authorities in Karnataka have asked elderly citizens to wear face masks after a spurt in COVID-19 cases in the last few days. AP

Singapore

The number of fresh COVID-19 cases in Singapore jumped to 965 in the past week, up from 763 the previous week. Patients admitted to intensive care units (ICU) went up from 23 to 32 in the same period.
These are the highest numbers of new weekly hospitalisation and ICU admissions for COVID-19 patients in 2023, according to a report in TODAY newspaper. Most COVID-19 patients are infected by JN.1.

For travel: Singapore on Monday reintroduced the use of masks in crowded places, particularly indoors.

The government has issued guidelines for travellers and citizens. The health ministry has strongly encouraged the public to wear a mask in crowded places even if they are not sick, especially in indoor settings, or when visiting or interacting with vulnerable persons, the ministry said. “Travellers should adopt the relevant travel precautions, such as wearing a mask at the airport, purchasing travel insurance, and avoiding crowded areas with poor ventilation,” it said.

Could JN1 COVID variant affect your holiday travel Where are cases rising in India world
People wearing face masks cross a road in Singapore. It has seen a surge in cases of the JN.1 subvariant. File photo/Reuters

Malaysia

Malaysia, a popular tourist destination, has witnessed a near doubling of COVID-19 infections in a week ahead of Christmas and New Year. Cases jumped from 6,796 in the last week of November to nearly 13,000 by 10 December, according to a report in Strait Times.

From 10 December to 16 December, the country reported a total of 20, 696 COVID cases. It was a 62 per cent increase compared the the numbers reported the week before.

Could JN1 COVID variant affect your holiday travel Where are cases rising in India world
Tourists take pictures of the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur. The health ministry has said that no COVID-related restrictions are being imposed currently. File image/AFP

For travel: Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad has said that there were no plans to reinstate lockdown-related restrictions.

The health minister stated that there is no burden on health facilities right now. He has advised social distancing and wearing masks.

“Do not be alarmed but at the same time take precautionary measures. Maintain your distance from one another, practice good hygiene, wear masks indoors or in crowded spaces and get booster shots, especially those in the high-risk categories.”

Indonesia

The country’s health ministry has confirmed the detection of JN.1. At least 41 cases were confirmed on Wednesday.

“Like other Omicron subvariants, most patients who had contracted JN.1 experienced mild symptoms,” the country’s disease control and prevention director general Maxi Rein Rondonuwu said.

For travel: There are no restrictions on travel and no mask mandates have been issued so far.

Could JN1 COVID variant affect your holiday travel Where are cases rising in India world
Foreign tourists visit Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. At least 41 cases of JN.1 have been reported in the country. File photo/Reuters

The United Kingdom

Cases of COVID-19 are rising in the UK, especially in England and Scotland. One in 24 people in the two places had the infection on 13 December compared to one in 55 on 29 December, according to data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

London is the worst-affected area as the infectious JN.1 variant spreads rapidly.

For travel: There are no mask mandates at airports or airlines if you are travelling to the UK.

“At this time of year, the cold weather, shorter days and increased socialising mean that the potential for transmission of respiratory viruses like Covid-19 is particularly high,” Steven Riley, director general for data and surveillance at the UKHSA was quoted as saying by Bloomberg. “This, as well as the possible impact of new variants, means it’s not unexpected to see cases rising.”

Could JN1 COVID variant affect your holiday travel Where are cases rising in India world
Passengers wait at the Eurostar entrance in St Pancras International station in London. As the JN.1 variant spreads, cases are rising in England and Scotland. AP

The United States

In the US, COVID levels have reached the highest since last December in parts of the country, according to wastewater data analysis from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some states with “very high” levels of Covid include New Jersey, North Carolina, Maryland, Indiana, Delaware, and Michigan, among others. New York, Virginia, Texas, California, and Virginia are states with “high levels” of infections.

JN.1 is causing approximately 20 per cent of new infections in the country, making it the fastest-growing strain.

Could JN1 COVID variant affect your holiday travel Where are cases rising in India world
People gather around the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, in New York. It is among the states with high levels of infection. AP

For travel: There have been no restrictions imposed so far.

But Dr Peter Chin-Hong, a University of California San Francisco infectious disease expert, told the Los Angeles Times that with the rising viral levels, he is worried are “going to translate into hospitalisations around Christmastime.”

The CDC has said that there is no evidence that JN.1 presents an increased risk to public health relative to other currently circulating variants. It added that an updated shot could keep Americans protected against the variant.

With inputs from agencies



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