A senior Indian virologist has resigned from a forum of scientific advisers set up by the government to detect variants of the coronavirus, days after questioning authorities’ handling of the pandemic.
Shahid Jameel, chairman of the forum’s scientific advisory group known as INSACOG, declined to give a reason for his resignation.
“I don’t have to give a reason,” he told Reuters news agency on Sunday in a text message, adding that he had resigned on Friday.
A senior government scientist who is on the forum said, on condition of anonymity, that he did not believe Jameel’s departure would hamper INSACOG’s surveillance of virus variants.
Reuters reported earlier this month that INSACOG, India’s SARS-CoV-2 genetics consortium, warned government officials in early March of a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus taking hold in the country.
The variant, B.1.617, is one reason India is currently facing the world’s worst outbreak of COVID-19 cases.
Asked why the government did not respond more vigorously to the results, for example by restricting large gatherings, Jameel told Reuters he feared authorities were not paying enough attention to the evidence when it came down to it. define the policy.
Jameel also wrote in the New York Times on May 13 that scientists face stubborn resistance to evidence-based policy making.
Renu Swarup, the secretary of the biotechnology department that oversees INSACOG, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan also did not immediately respond to a text message asking for comment.
Another INSACOG member said he was not aware of any direct disagreements between Jameel and the government.
Meanwhile, India reported 281,386 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours on Monday, while deaths increased by 4,106. The South Asian nation’s total number of cases is 24.97 million, with a death toll of 274,390, according to data from the Department of Health.
Some Indian states have extended their COVID-19 lockdown to help contain the pandemic, which has killed more than 270,000 people in the country, as the federal government pledged to boost vaccine supplies.
Sunday’s 311,170 new infections were the smallest one-day increase in more than three weeks, but federal health officials have warned against complacency in the face of a “plateau” in rising infections.
The northern states of Delhi and Haryana have extended lockdowns for a week, which were due to end on Monday.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the rate of positive cases in relation to all tests taken had come down to 10%, from 30% earlier this month.
The southern state of Kerala, which has already announced an extension of the lockdown, also introduced stricter restrictions in some districts on Saturday. He warned that people who do not wear masks where required or violate quarantine protocols risk being arrested, with drones used to help identify violators.
While lockdowns have helped limit cases in parts of the country that were hit by an initial outbreak of infections in February and April, such as Maharashtra and Delhi, rural areas and some states are grappling with further outbreaks. .
The government on Sunday released detailed guidelines to monitor cases of COVID-19 that were spreading across the vast Indian countryside.
The health ministry has asked villages to look for cases of flu-like illnesses and have those patients tested for COVID-19.
Bodies of COVID-19 victims have been found in some rivers, the government of the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh said in a letter seen by Reuters, in the first official acknowledgment of the alarming practice.
Even though India is the largest vaccine-producing country in the world, only 141.6 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, or about 10% of its population of 1.35 billion, according to the reports. data from the Ministry of Health.
The country has fully immunized just over 40.4 million people, or 2.9 percent of its population.