NITI Aayog member Dr V K Paul, heading a panel to coordinate coronavirus efforts, said Monday that India has not started seeing community transmission as yet, and the strategy as of now was to guard against it and intensify containment measures.
In an interview to The Indian Express, a day after the country observed Janata Curfew, Paul said, “Today, you can say, as of now we are preparing for Stage 3 and intensification of containment to the best possible extent.”
Asked if India was in Stage 3, or community transmission, Paul said, “It’s local transmission as yet… All in all, the numbers show we haven’t reached the stage of serious deaths or disease.”
The government has changed its strategy though in “anticipation” of Stage 3, he added. “Yesterday too we said that there is no community transmission. But change is there. When did this happen? Change 10 din pahle hua jab pradhan mantriji ne aahwan de diya, maan lijiye uss point se le lijiye, ki bhai containment bhi karo aur yahan tak to theek hai, lekin desh ko agle stage ke liye taiyyar karo (The change happened 10 days ago, consider it the point the Prime Minister called upon people, that take containment measures but also prepare the country for the next stage). God forbid we enter the next stage, but whatever efforts we are making are for that.”
At the same time, Paul reiterated, “Jo bhi data abhi tak hai aur officially aapko bataye gaye hain, main manta hoon ki theek hain (Whatever data is there and has been shared with you, that is correct).”
With several experts calling for more testing, Paul said they had chosen a more balanced approach. “Ours has been a strategic approach, to make the best use of our efforts and yet, not expose ourselves to risk… We chose that strategy given the overall resources we had at that point, and to make sure we did not miss anything. We took a nuanced approach.”
Paul also contested the claims that India’s strategy was dictated by its lack of testing kits. He said, “Maybe in the beginning the numbers were limited but, in the middle of the whole thing, there was no dearth. As the disease progressed, availability was not an issue at all. Our issue was we wanted to do it (testing) in a systematic way, so that there is no wasting of resources.”
Of the cases that appear to have no travel or contact history, thus indicating community transmission, the NITI Aayog member said they would be in a position to say about these patients only “after the investigation and tests are done”.
A B R Ambedkar Centenary Award winner for Excellence in Biomedical Research, Dr Paul is the co-chairman of an empowered committee constituted to coordinate among various agencies, scientists and regulatory bodies, as well as to take speedy decisions on R&D related to coronavirus.
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