Lancet Critical Of Indian Govt’s ‘Too Positive Spin’ On COVID-19 Situation
New Delhi: Popular medical journal The Lancet has blamed the Indian government of putting a “too positive spin” on the COVID-19 situation in India.
The editorial raised concerns over the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) “straying from scientific evidence” in view of presenting an optimistic assessment.
“… Presenting the current situation in India with a too positive spin not only clouds reality but also hampers vital public health initiatives. Perpetuating unrealistic claims or failing to honestly report negative news creates uncertainty among the public and healthcare professionals, discouraging people from taking preventive action or taking public health messages seriously,” the editorial wrote.
“India has expertise in medicine, public health, research, and manufacturing to lead the nation through the Covid-19 pandemic. To capitalise on these attributes, the country’s leaders must respect scientific evidence, expert commentary, and academic freedom, and not provide false optimism,” it added.
The editorial like WHO, however, had praised India’s early lockdown measures imposed on March 25 but was critical about the quality of data available.
It also questions ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava’s controversial push for the release of a COVID-19 vaccine by August 15 which subsequently was not ready.
“This pressure to avoid negative news, and to offer reassurance, appears to have been felt by several professional scientific organisations in India. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has been singled out by experts for straying from scientific evidence, appearing at worst politically motivated and at best overly optimistic,” the editorial stated.
“A letter from the Director-General of the ICMR, Balram Bhargava, said that the ICMR envisaged launching a coronavirus vaccine on Aug 15 (Indian Independence Day; a deadline considered unrealistic by most medical experts); ICMR has supported treatment with hydroxychloroquine despite insufficient evidence; news reports claim that data on coronavirus infection was removed from a scientific paper,” read the editorial.
The Lancet was also critical of the ICMR’s use of Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ).