Senior virologist Shahid Jameel resigned as the head of the Indian SARS-COV-2 Genomics Consortia (INSACOG), the scientific advisory group coordinating India’s genome sequencing work shortly after criticising the Centre for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Quitting from his post on May 14, 2021 the respected scientist told news agency Reuters that he was under no obligation to state a reason for this action. However, The Hindu recently claimed that one of the INSACOG talked of “government pressure” as a potential reason for the resignation.
During an Indian Express Explained Live session, Jameel criticised the government’s efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 during the second wave of the infection. Authorities failed by assuming that the pandemic was over in India in January and closing many temporary facilities that had been set up during the first wave.
He also recently spoke about the Indian scientists struggling with a “stubborn response to evidence-based policy making” in an article for New York Times. Further he spoke about the need to increase testing and isolation, ramp up hospital beds with temporary facilities, increase vaccination, call upon retired doctors and nurses and strengthen the supply chain for critical medicines and oxygen.
As for the problems related to Covid-data, he said that over 800 Indian scientists appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 30 for verified information that can help with studies related to the virus. However, the request did not generate any response.
Reuters reported that INSACOG had warned government officials in early March of a new, more contagious Covid-variant known as B.1.617. This variant is one of the reasons for the world’s worst Covid-crisis, said Jameel.
Earlier, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the Indian variant already spread to over 30 countries. Yet, Jameel condemned the government for their lax attitude which includes holding huge political rallies and religious festivals like Kumbh Mela.
Covid-19 in India
According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India recorded 35,16,997 Covid-cases and 2,74,390 deaths on May 17. However, across India, there have been reports of under-reporting of Covid-deaths. Recently, certain areas have also reported lower testing.
SabrangIndia also talked to ground-level workers who reported abandoned bodies in cities as people panic about the worsening health crisis. NGO workers, doctors, spoke about shortage of hospital beds, oxygen and pleas for help on social media. Most recently, a horrifying incident has been reported where a large number of bodies have been found in the Ganga river. Local police suspect this was a result of the growing crowding and waiting period outside cemeteries.
Regarding vaccines, despite the title of the world's largest vaccine-producing nation, India has administered 18,29,26,460 doses of which 4,17,78,690 people were fully vaccinated by Monday morning. This still accounts for around 13 percent of India’s 135 crore population with only three percent or so receiving both doses of a vaccine.
Courtesy: Sabrang India