The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has issued an advisory urging the public to exercise caution in light of the global spread of new variants of the coronavirus. The advisory is particularly pertinent, as many individuals are expected to travel abroad during school holidays.

A large number of individuals travel abroad and to the islands, with many returning from Saudi Arabia after performing Umrah pilgrimage during this period, HPA observed. Historically, this period has seen an increase in flu, viral fever, and respiratory illnesses.

While numerous countries have implemented heightened precautionary measures in response to the spread of the JN.1 variant of Covid-19, a sub-variant of the Omicron strain, the HPA’s advisory did not confirm the presence of this strain in the Maldives.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the JN.1 variant as a “variant of interest” due to its rapidly increasing global spread. The variant has been detected in several countries, including India, China, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The HPA has issued several recommendations to prevent infections. These include wearing a mask in crowded, enclosed areas, covering coughs and sneezes, regularly cleaning hands, staying home if ill, and getting tested if symptoms appear. The agency has also urged the public to be especially vigilant for children and pregnant women.

In addition, the HPA has called for vigilance against diseases spread through mosquito bites and the eradication of mosquito breeding grounds. This warning follows the recent emergence of filariasis, a disease previously eradicated in the Maldives, in Kulhudhuffushi City and the Malé region.

According to the WHO, the JN.1 variant has been identified in over 40 countries. Reports suggest that the JN.1 variant is the fastest-growing in the United States, accounting for 15-29 percent of infections. The UK Health Security Agency reports that JN.1 currently comprises around 7 percent of positive Covid tests analysed in a lab.

Despite the rapid spread of the JN.1 variant, the WHO has stated that the risk to the public is currently low and that vaccines continue to offer protection. The organisation has issued several recommendations to prevent infections and severe diseases similar to those recommended by the HPA.