As India gradually opens up, some of the country’s prominent public health and community medicine experts, including two members of an ICMR research group on Covid-19, have criticised the government’s handling of the pandemic and the lack of epidemiologists in decision-making.
“It is unrealistic to expect that COVID-19 pandemic can be eliminated at this stage given that community transmission is already well-established across large sections or sub-populations in the country,” reads a joint statement by Indian Public Health Association, Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine and Indian Association of Epidemiologists.
The government has maintained that there is no community transmission even as the total cases in the country touched 1,73,763 on Saturday. As many as 7,964 fresh cases were reported Saturday — a new daily high. However, the number of active cases has gone down for the first time, from 89,987 patients on Friday to 86,422 Saturday.
“India’s nationwide “lockdown” from March 25, 2020 till May 30, 2020 has been one of the most stringent; and yet COVID cases have increased exponentially through this phase… This draconian lockdown is presumably in response to a modeling exercise from an influential institution which was a ‘worst-case simulation’… Subsequent events have proved that the predictions of this model were way off the mark. Had the Government of India consulted epidemiologists who had better grasp of disease transmission dynamics compared to modelers, it would have perhaps been better served…,” the statement says.
Among signatories of the statement are Dr Shashi Kant, Professor & Head, Centre for Community Medicine AIIMS, New Delhi and Dr D C S Reddy, Former Professor & Head, Community Medicine, BHU. The two are members of an ICMR research group on epidemiology and surveillance for Covid-19 constituted on April 6. Dr Reddy chairs the group.
When The Sunday Express contacted him, Dr Shashi Kant said: “I am aware of it, I have signed it and I am in agreement with it is all I can say.” Dr Reddy said: “Yes I am aware of the statement, it was circulated to all of us and wherever we had doubts, we have raised it.”
Among other signatories are Dr Anil Kumar, Deputy Director General of Health Services, Dr Puneet Misra, professor, community medicine, AIIMS and Dr Kapil Yadav, Additional Professor, Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS.
The statement adds that the handling of migrants has added to the challenges in containing the spread of the disease.
Among the recommendations the statement makes constitution of a panel of inter-disciplinary public health and preventive health experts and social scientists at central, state and district levels to address both public health and humanitarian crises.
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