New Delhi: Virologist Shahid Jameel, who headed the Indian SARS-COV-2 Genomics Consortia, resigned reportedly over the differences with the Centre in the handling of the country's pandemic situation.
INSACOG is the scientific advisory group coordinating the country's genome sequencing work had established in January to expedite genome sequencing of the SARS-CoV2 virus and its multiple variants.
Jameel was said to have not been content with the government's responses to its finding and often expressed his dissensions openly. He was of the opinion that the government was not serious in tackling the pandemic despite providing evidence of the emergence of a new variant COVID and its dangerous implications.
In an opinion piece published in The New York Times, he said the scientific community dealing with the COVID progression in India was in immense pressure from the government's response to its evidence-based policymaking.
Dr Jameel had also called out the lower testing, slow pace of vaccination, vaccine shortage and the need for a bigger healthcare workforce in India.
Even after the pandemic spun out of the control, the government was seen reluctant to align with the decision making based on data, leading to more causality and leaving a scar in the form of human fatalities, he said.
INSACOG 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.
The variant, B.1.617, is one of the reasons India is currently battling the world's worst surge in COVID-19 cases that has killed thousands.
Asked why the government did not respond more forcefully to the findings, for example by restricting large gatherings, Dr Jameel had told Reuters that he was concerned that authorities were not paying enough attention to the evidence as they set policy.
The central government has been widely criticised for its missteps in tackling the coronavirus pandemic including organising the Kumbh Mela festival attended by lakhs of people and crowded election rallies led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other politicians.
Total infections have risen by more than 20 lakh this week, and deaths by nearly 28,000. Deaths rose by 4,077 on Sunday. But experts say these numbers could be up to 10 times higher as few states count those who die of COVID-19 out of hospitals.