A prominent Indian scientist leaves the COVID panel over differences with the government Coronavirus pandemic news


A leading Indian virologist has given up a forum of scientific advisers set up by the government to detect coronavirus variants, days after questioning the authorities’ treatment 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’m not forced to give a reason,” he told Reuters in a text message on Sunday, adding that he left on Friday.

A senior government scientist who is part of the forum said, on condition of anonymity, that he did not believe Jameel’s departure would hinder INSACOG’s monitoring of virus variants.

Reuters reported earlier this month that INSACOG, the Indian genetic consortium SARS-CoV-2, warned government officials in early March of a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus being exploited in the country.

The variant, B.1.617, is one of the reasons why India is currently struggling with the worst global increase in COVID-19 cases.

Asked why the government did not respond more strongly to the findings, for example by restricting large meetings, Jameel had told Reuters that he was concerned that authorities were not paying enough attention to the evidence as they set the policy.

Jameel had also written to the New York Times on May 13 that scientists were facing stubborn resistance to evidence-based policy formulation.

Renu Swarup, the secretary of the Department of Biotechnology overseeing 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 comments.

Another INSACOG member said he knew of no direct disagreement between Jameel and the government.

Meanwhile, India reported 281,386 new coronavirus infections on Monday over the past 24 hours, while deaths rose by 4,106. The total number of cases in the South Asian nation is 24.97 million, with a death toll of 274,390, according to data from the health ministry.

Some states in India expanded their COVID-19 closures to help contain the pandemic, which killed more than 270,000 people in the country as the federal government pledged to bolster the supply of vaccines.

Sunday’s 311,170 new infections accounted for the lowest single-day increase in more than three weeks, but federal health officials warned against any complacency for a “stagnation” in the rise in infections.

The northern states of Delhi and Haryana extended the planned closures to end on Monday one week.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the positive case rate compared to the general tests conducted has been reduced to 10% to 30% earlier this month.

The southern state of Kerala, which has previously announced a blockade extension, also introduced stricter restrictions in some districts on Saturday. He warned that people who did not wear masks or who violated quarantine protocols were detained, with drones used to identify violators.

Although the blockades have helped limit cases in some parts of the country that had been affected by an initial wave of infections in February and April, such as Maharashtra and Delhi, rural areas and some states are facing new ones. climbs.

The government on Sunday issued detailed guidelines to control COVID-19 cases spreading across India’s vast countryside.

The health ministry urged people to monitor cases of flu-like illness and have these patients get COVID-19 tests.

Bodies of victims of COVID-19 were found to have been dumped in some rivers, the government of Uttar Pradesh’s most populous state said in a letter seen by Reuters, in the first official recognition of the alarming practice.

Although India is the largest vaccine-producing nation in the world, only 141.6 million people have received at least one dose of vaccine, or about 10% of its population, which is 1.35 billion, according to data of the Ministry of Health.

The country has completely vaccinated just over 40.4 million people, or 2.9 percent of its population.

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