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Govt didn't take expert advice before imposing lockdown?

Top public health experts, in a letter to the PM, call the two-month lockdown as “draconian.”

Last Updated: Jun 01, 2020, 07.54 AM IST
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NEW DELHI | MUMBAI: India is now in a community transmission phase, top public health experts have said, as the country starts a phased exit from a two-month lockdown they describe as “draconian.”

In a joint statement to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, representatives of Indian Public Health Association (IPHA), Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine (IAPSM) & Indian Association of Epidemiologists said that the government should have consulted epidemiologists while formulating policies to tackle Covid-19.

“Had the government of India consulted epidemiologists who had better grasp of disease transmission dynamics compared to modelers, it would have perhaps been better served,” the statement said. It pointed out that the government was primarily advised by “clinicians” and “academic epidemiologists” with limited field training and skills.

“This draconian lockdown is probably in response to a modeling exercise from an influential institution which was a ‘worst-case simulation’. The model had come up with an estimated 2.2 million deaths globally. Subsequent events have proved that the predictions of this model were way off the mark,” it said. A study published by Imperial College London in March 2020 estimated 2.2 million deaths in the US alone, but it also assumed no containment measures or changes in behaviour by the public at large.

‘Govt Didn’t Take Expert Advice Before Imposing Lockdown’

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.
When asked why these concerns were not raised earlier, Dr Shashi Kant, professor, Centre for Community Medicine AIIMS, who is one of the signatories told ET, “the deliberation of the task force is confidential in nature. Nonetheless as a member of the public health community in the country I was approached to look at the consensus communication and therefore I lent my name,” he said.

The statement further says that the delay in allowing migrant workers to return home added to challenges in limiting the spread of virus.

The signatories make a range of recommendations, including the setting up of a panel of inter-disciplinary preventive health and public health experts and social scientists at central, state and district levels to tackle both public health and humanitarian crises.

Speaking to ET, DCS Reddy, another member, said, “We need to now have a pragmatic approach to the epidemic, the situation needs to be tailored to local situations and not be a blanket one. The government from the beginning should have advised states to take a local approach. We did not do badly, but we could have used our resources for better things and hence done more”.
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