Updated December 24th, 2023 at 00:10 IST

'Don't panic, but mask up': Ex-WHO chief scientist Swaminathan on new Covid variant scare

Swaminathan said the precautions that people need to take to contain the spread will also protect them against the common infections during the cold season.

Reported by: Manisha Roy
Soumya Swaminathan advised people to take precautions such as wearing masks to avoid infection | Image:ANI
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New Delhi: Amid an uptick in Covid-19 cases in the country, driven by the JN.1 variant, former World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said that there is a need to be alert and not panic currently given that JN.1 has been declared as a separate variant of interest by the WHO. She highlighted that the precautions, which people need to take to contain the spread of the coronavirus, will also protect them against the common infections prevalent during the cold season. 

"We need to be cautious, but we don't need to worry because we don't have any data to suggest that this variant JN.1 is more severe or it's going to cause more pneumonia, more death," reported news agency ANI quoting Dr Soumya Swaminathan, former DG, of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as saying. 

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"I think what we need to do is try to take the normal preventive measures that we are all now familiar with. We were familiar with Omicron, so it's the same family. So not much has changed, but 1 or 2 new mutations have come up. And that's why I think WHO has said let's keep a watch on it. It's a variant of interest. It's not a variant of concern," she added. 

She advised people to take precautions such as wearing masks to avoid infection. She said, “Avoid being in a very closed environment with very poor ventilation with toxic people without a mask. So do wear a mask if you're in that type of very close setting because prolonged exposure to somebody infected increases the risk of infection”

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"Try to be in an open space rather than in most cases, have gatherings and now ventilated places today, entering into the season of gatherings," said Swaminathan. 

"If you have some warning symptoms and signs like severe fatigue, prolonged fever or you're feeling breathless, visit the hospital," she said. 

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Speaking on hospitalisation due to COVID, she said, "The number of cases goes up and there's always a small percentage of people who need to be hospitalised. So if you have 100 people with infection, one person will need to be hospitalised unlike people, let people need to be hospitalised. So that way you know, you will see that there's an increase in people getting sick." 

"We have to realise that other respiratory infections are circulating now in the winter, and therefore, these precautions will help us against influenza against the common cold against all infections so we can stay healthy," she added.

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India logs 640 fresh COVID-19 cases

Meanwhile, 640 fresh COVID-19 cases were recorded in India on Friday while the number of active cases climbed to 2,997 from 2,669 the day before, according to Union health ministry data. India had reported 594 fresh COVID-19 infections on Thursday. 

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(With ANI inputs)

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Published December 22nd, 2023 at 16:37 IST