Senior virologist Shahid Jameel has resigned as the chief of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium, a scientific advisory group that coordinates the country’s genome sequencing work, reported The New Indian Express on Sunday. Jameel has been critical of the government’s handling of the coronavirus.
It is not clear why Jameel quit. While he has confirmed his resignation, the virologist has not given a reason for it.
He had last week written an opinion piece of The New York Times in which he claimed that scientists were “facing stubborn resistance to evidence-based policymaking”.
He had made suggestions for the coronavirus management in India, including increasing testing, improving vaccination pace, boosting vaccine supplies and needing a larger healthcare workforce.
“Decision-making based on data is yet another casualty, as the pandemic in India has spun out of control,” he had written. “The human cost we are enduring will leave a permanent scar.”
Last months, Reuters reported that a forum of scientific advisers had warned government officials in early March of a new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus in the country. Jameel had expressed concern that authorities were not paying enough attention to the evidence as they created policies.
“I am worried that science was not taken into account to drive policy,” he had told Reuters. “But I know where my jurisdiction stops. As scientists we provide the evidence, policymaking is the job of the government.”
Jameel had also criticised the Supreme Court’s decision to appoint a task force to manage oxygen supplies. “This is really unfortunate. We are short on doctors and we have taken some of our best doctors and told them you play oxygen-oxygen,” he had said at an Indian Express event. “You decide who will get oxygen. It is really a sad day for us. These good doctors know about medicine, but what do they know about oxygen supply chain and logistics.”