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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Virologist Shahid Jameel quits govt’s genome mapping group

Known to speak his mind on scientific matters, Jameel had been critical of the government’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus, particularly during the second wave.

By: Express News Service | Pune |
Updated: May 17, 2021 6:49:56 am
Dr. Shahid Jameel (Photo Source: commons.wikimedia.org)

Virologist Shahid Jameel, one of the most prominent scientific voices of the pandemic, has resigned as the head of the Indian SARS-COV-2 Genomics Consortia (INSACOG), the scientific advisory group coordinating the country’s genome sequencing work.

INSACOG had come into being in January this year as a scientific body to promote and expedite genome sequencing of the SARS-CoV2 virus and its multiple variants. The consortium had established a network of ten leading laboratories to carry out gene sequencing of virus samples from across the country. The consortium was initially given a tenure of six months, but later got an extension. The genome sequencing work, which had been progressing at a very slow pace, gathered momentum only after the constitution of INSACOG.

Jameel, a widely respected scientist, has been speaking and writing frequently on the pandemic, including in The Indian Express. Only last week, he was the guest at the Explained Live event organized by this newspaper. Known to speak his mind on scientific matters, Jameel had been critical of the government’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus, particularly during the second wave.

During the Explained Live event, he had said that government authorities had erred in prematurely believing that the pandemic was over in January, and by folding up many temporary facilities that had been set up in previous months.

Recently, he also wrote a piece in the New York Times in which he stressed on the need to increase testing and isolation, ramp up hospital beds by creating more temporary facilities, rope in retired doctors and nurses, and strengthen the supply chain for critical medicines and oxygen.

“All these measures have wide support among my fellow scientists in India. But they are facing stubborn resistance to evidence-based policymaking,” he wrote.

“Decision-making based on data is yet another casualty, as the pandemic in India has spun out of control. The human cost we are enduring will leave a permanent scar,” he wrote.

But Jameel had also criticised the Supreme Court’s recent decision to appoint a task force to manage oxygen supplies.

“This is really unfortunate. We are short on doctors and we have taken some of our best doctors and told them you play oxygen-oxygen. You decide who will get oxygen. It is really a sad day for us. These good doctors know about medicine, but what do they know about oxygen supply chain and logistics,” he had said at the Explained event.

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