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Community transmission well established in India Epidemiologists from National Task force for coronavirus

India June 01(IM): In a joint statement, medical professional associations have criticised the handling of the coronavirus pandemic by the Indian government stating that a draconian lockdown, incoherent strategies led to India paying a heavy price.

Most importantly, the statement reads, "It is unrealistic to expect that Covid-19 pandemic can be eliminated at this stage given that community transmission is already well-established across the large sections or sub-populations in the country."

The evidence of community transmission has come forward earlier when the Indian research body ICMR dropped possible hints at community transmission in clusters in India, India Today reported the story on April 10, this year.

However, health professionals as well as the health ministry continued to deny the spread of community transmission in the country.

It further states: “Had the migrant persons been allowed to go home at the beginning of the epidemic when the disease spread was very low, the current situation could have been avoided. The returning migrants are now taking infection to each and every corner of the country; mostly to rural and peri-urban areas, in districts with relatively weak public health systems (including clinical care).”

Three medical professional associations have submitted a joint statement to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 25. The signatories include former advisors to the health ministry, current and former professors at the All India Institute for Medical Sciences, Benaras Hindu University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, among others. Among the signatories is Dr. DCS Reddy, a former professor at Institute of Medical Sciences at BHU, who was appointed as the head of the research group on epidemiology and surveillance constituted by the Indian government’s National Task Force for Covid-19 in April this year.

Another member of the research group, Dr. Shashi Kant, professor and head of the Centre for Community Medicine at AIIMS, New Delhi, has also signed this statement.

India today TV spoke to Dr. Shashi Kant who said, “The statement is a joint statement by three associations. It is not a personal view. It is self-explanatory.”

These experts are members of the Indian Public Health Association, the Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine and the Indian Association of Epidemiologists.

The statement reads: “The response of the Government of India after the first case on January 30, 2020 blunted the rapid progress of the infection and the nation accepted near-total disruption of all facets of daily living. Clinical, epidemiological and laboratory knowledge for control of the novel coronavirus indicate that humankind will have to “live with the virus” and operational strategies rapidly need to recalibrate from containment to mitigation.”

“The emerging evidence unequivocally indicates that Covid-19 worsened the health inequities, and public health measures need to make that concern central.”

“Had the Government of India consulted epidemiologists who had a better grasp of disease transmission dynamics compared to modellers, it would have perhaps been better served," it adds.

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