Claims that Covid strategy excluded experts baseless: Govt

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Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Published: June 8, 2020 1:20:55 am

india lockdown, Coronavirus lockdown exit strategy, coronavirus cases in india, coronavirus deaths, india covid-19 deaths, narendra modi, india lockdown impact, india after lockdown The Health Ministry stated, “The Task Force has held over 20 meetings and has systematically contributed towards the scientific and technical response to the pandemic.”(File Photo)

The Centre has described as “unfounded and baseless”the accusations that the government’s efforts towards containment and management of Covid-19 excluded the larger wisdom of technical experts.

A joint statement by the Indian Public Health Association (IPHA), Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine (IAPSM) and Indian Association of Epidemiologists (IAE) had last week accused the government of not having consulted “epidemiologists who had better grasp of disease transmission dynamics compared to modelers”.

“These apprehensions and allegations are unfounded and baseless. The government is constantly in consultation with experts for technical and strategic inputs, scientific ideas and domain-specific guidance to address the Covid-19 pandemic. A National Task Force (NTF) for Covid-19 is constituted by Secretary DHR-cum-DG-ICMR with Member (Health) NITI Aayog as Chairperson and Secretary (DoHFW) and Secretary (DHR) as Co-Chairs. The NTF comprises 21 members, including technical/domain experts from the government and outside the government. Predominant expertise in the Task Force is from public health and/or epidemiology. Given the complexity and implications of the Covid-19 pandemic, the group has experts from medicine, virology, pharmacology and programme implementation domains, as well,” read a statement issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The Task Force constituted four expert groups, the statement added, on Epidemiology and Surveillance (with 13 members) and on Operations Research (with 15 members) that almost entirely include public health and epidemiology experts from the government and non-government arena.

Among the signatories in the joint statement were Dr Shashi Kant, Professor and Head of the Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS, New Delhi, and Dr D C S Reddy, former Professor and Head of Community Medicine at BHU. The two are also members of a ICMR research group on epidemiology and surveillance for Covid formed on April 6.

The joint statement also mentioned that it is unrealistic to expect that the pandemic can be eliminated at this stage given that community transmission is already well-established across large sections or sub-populations in the country. The government has consistently denied community transmission.

The Health Ministry stated, “The Task Force has held over 20 meetings and has systematically contributed towards the scientific and technical response to the pandemic.”

As is well known in public health, different stages of epidemic demand different response and a nuanced, step-wise response is known to be a positive characteristic of a resilient health system, the government said, adding that the people, the WHO and the global health community have appreciated India’s proactive and pre-emptive approach.

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