The Indian Council of Medical Research has set up a national task force for Covid-19, the Hindustan Times reported on Tuesday. The task force will initiate research studies and identify priorities for clinical research, diagnostics and bio-markers, epidemiology and surveillance, vaccines and drug development to combat the coronavirus.
In a statement released on Tuesday evening, the council said members had been appointed to this task force, and the terms of reference had been set. The clinical research group within the task force is headed by All India Institute of Medical Sciences Director Dr Randeep Guleria. The group on diagnostics and biomarkers is headed by Dr DA Gadkari, former director of National Institute of Virology, Pune. This group will periodically advise ICMR on developing a testing strategy.
Community medicine expert Dr DCS Reddy will head the group on epidemiology and surveillance and its priority will be to decide on lockdowns or partial lockdowns in the country. The Centre had on March 25 imposed a nationwide lockdown, which will come to an end on April 14.
Translational Health Science and Technology Institute Executive Director Dr Gagandeep Kang will head the group on vaccines for Covid-19, ICMR said.
Dr Raman Gangakhedkar, the chief scientist at ICMR, had told India Today in an interview on April 6 that a call on ending or extending the lockdown after April 14 can only be taken closer to the date. Referring to the event held by the Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi last month that has led to over 1,000 cases of the coronavirus across India, Gangakhedkar said: “Perhaps we’ll see more number of cases occurring in the present period. We need to wait for some time.”
In its press conference on Tuesday, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had asked the media not to speculate about whether the shutdown will end on April 14. Several chief ministers have called for an extension or only a partial lifting of restrictions, saying that it will be difficult to tackle the coronavirus epidemic otherwise.
According to the ministry, 4,789 people have so far been diagnosed with the disease, of which 352 have been cured, 124 have died and one has migrated.