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We failed to do right thing at right time, says virologist Jacob John

We failed to do right thing at right time, says virologist Jacob John

Thiruvananthapuram: A Kerala virologist with decades of experience on Monday alleged that India had failed to do the right thing at the right time in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Senior virologist T. Jacob John told IANS that the central government did not ensure a system was in place to respond to the unfolding medical crisis and was now responding on a day-to-day basis, which was wrong.

"The Mahabharata war got over in 18 days. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given us three-day bonus. Will that be enough? India has failed to do the right thing at the right time. It is now doing the right thing at the wrong time. There was lot of time with the government. The first thing that should have been done was to set up a task force to advise the government as this is a 'human problem' and not an administrative one," said the senior virologist with around six decades of professional expertise in dealing with infectious diseases at the highest level.

Winner of the prestigious Dr BC Roy Award, he served at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, from 1967 to 1995, apart from 15 years as chief of the Centre of Advanced Research in Virology. John presently lives a semi-retired life at Vellore.

"First, we were told that 14 hours is enough, then it was said 80 districts in the country will go in a lockdown. Then came the 21-day nationwide lockdown. Now, we are told by a senior bureaucrat that there is no plan to extend the lockdown beyond April 14. These are all soothing words," John remarked.

John said what he was experiencing was a "deep moral anger".

"What the statement should have been is that 'we will re-assess the situation after two weeks'. That would have been a hugely credible statement. Let me ask -- 'what if the Prime Minister extends it by another 21 days?', 'what will happen to today's statement by the senior official?'" asked John.

The health professional pointed out that no doubt the lockdown was essential, but then it could have been done in a planned manner.

"Timing could have been planned -- everyone knew that positive cases are on the rise. The authorities could have announced well in advance that the lockdown would begin when the total positive cases crosses a fixed number. Had it been done, the present issues of the migrant labourers out on the streets would not have arisen," he said.

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