Top Indian Virologist Shahid Jameel Leaves COVID-19 Panel After Broadcasting Differences

Shahid Jameel, chairman of the scientific advisory group of the forum known as INSACOG, declined to give a reason for his resignation

Reuters | May 17, 2021 | Updated 08:35 IST

A senior Indian virologist has resigned from a forum of scientific advisers set up by the government to detect variants of the coronavirus, he told Reuters on Sunday, weeks after questioning authorities on the handling of the pandemic.

Shahid Jameel, chairman of the forum’s scientific advisory group known as INSACOG, declined to give a reason for his resignation. “I don’t have to give a reason,” he said in a text message, adding that he resigned on Friday.

Renu Swarup, the secretary of the biotechnology department that oversees INSACOG, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan also did not immediately respond to a text message asking for comment. Another INSACOG member said he was not aware of any direct disagreements between Jameel and the government.

A senior government scientist who is on the forum said, on condition of anonymity, that he did not believe Jameel’s departure would hamper INSACOG’s surveillance of variants of the virus.

Reuters reported earlier this month that INSACOG, India’s SARS-CoV-2 genetics consortium, warned government officials in early March of a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus taking hold in the country. The variant, B.1.617, is one of the reasons India is currently facing the world’s worst increase in the number of Covid-19 cases.

Asked why the government did not respond more forcefully to the findings, such as restricting large gatherings, Jameel told Reuters he was concerned authorities were not paying enough attention to the evidence when it came to define the policy.

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