What we know about the new Covid variant JN.1 | In Focus podcast

For at least a year and a half now, most of us have relegated Covid-19 to the back of our minds. Cases of the virus had drastically reduced, it was not mentioned in headlines any more, and life seemed to have got somewhat back to normal as we learnt to live with Covid. It’s difficult however to ignore the news of yet another coronavirus mutation – this latest sub-variant, JN.1, a descendent of the Omicron variant, has been classified by the World Health Organisation as a ‘variant of interest’ because it has led to a rapid rise in cases across countries.

But the WHO has said that the risk to public health is low, and this has been echoed by the Union Health Ministry in India which has said that JN.1 is not a cause of immediate concern.

India has seen a surge in cases over the past few days – as of December 27, a total of 109 cases of JN.1 have been detected in the country. Active Covid-19 cases now stand at over 4,000 and several deaths have been reported over the past few days.

With winter having set in across north India, pollution levels on the rise and respiratory infections doing the rounds, do we need to be worried about JN.1? Is this sub-variant more infectious than previous variants? Does it have higher vaccine escape properties? Would a booster shot of the vaccine help? And do we need to mask up again?

Guest: Dr Soumya Swaminathan chairperson, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation and former chief scientist of the World Health Organisation 

Host: Zubeda Hamid

Edited by Jude Francis Weston

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