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JN.1 signifies a new era in the pandemic, but where to from here?

  • 26 Feb 2024


Woman in grocery store wearing surgical mask
Shutterstock/Drazen Zigic

COVID-19 may have drifted from the forefront of our minds, but as infections surge across the country, experts are encouraging vigilance. 

Burnet Institute Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC told 2GB radio the JN.1 variant was a new era, urging renewed urgency to protect against infection. 

“JN.1 is already the totally dominant variant, making up more than 98 per cent of all cases out there at the moment,” Professor Crabb told host Reverand Bill Crews. 

“Prior to the arrival of Omicron ... we’ve had these iterant variants, like a leopard that has different spots to another leopard, they are subtly different but not dramatically different, but along comes JN.1 and it is a totally different cat.”

Professor Crabb said it was unclear if JN.1 was more virulent than previous strains of the virus, but the number of cases was concerning.  

“JN.1 is a wake-up call ... burying our heads in the sand, as we’ve done these last two years, as a world and as a country, with respect to COVID-19, is not going to end it," he said. 

Professor Crabb said the best ways to prevent infection and avoid hospitalisation were to get vaccinated, breathe clean air, ensure indoor spaces were well-ventilated, test and isolate or seek treatment if needed. 

“We have to try and prevent [COVID-19], as best we can, using the tools we have, and then we have to act with urgency for new tools,” he said. 

“There are new tools out there that we don’t yet have ... but there isn’t the urgency to get them out to market that we had in the first two years of the pandemic. 

“Otherwise, we’ll still be in this position in four years’ time.” 

Listen to the full interview on 2GB