What are Indian scientists doing to combat COVID-19
Prof. K VijayRaghavan, the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India has provided much clarity on this answer in a series of tweets on the official Twitter handle of the Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India.
Before listing out the concerted efforts of the Indian government, he spelled out the following two requirements for success in these challenging times:
1. The first is a shared sense of purpose with our people, all humanity, particularly the poor and vulnerable.
2. The ability to take well-thought-out steps. Both are needed to push-back the disease
He proudly announced that scientists in India have both these attributes and for achieving success, we must be relentless, use our science at the right time and place and act intelligently and not randomly.
The scientific community and academia have tightly joined hands with the government in order to consolidate all their efforts for the larger good.
Listed below are the main efforts undertaken by the Indian scientific community in the country’s fight against the COVID-19 outbreak:
- The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Indian Council of Medical Research, National Disaster Management Authority and the State Disaster Management Authority, the state health ministries are at the frontline of this pandemic. They deal with testing every aspect of the disease and act on that information nationally by collaborating with Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research.
- The National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India integrates health information with all other information and works with the State Disaster Management Authority to have every aspect of management attended to in an anticipatory manner.
- All this information is integrated nationally and is available for public on the following website: https://www.mygov.in/covid-19
- On the international front, all international organisations, G-20 and SAARC nations have joined hands to resolve important issues on the supply of essential components and chemicals for testing, diagnosis, and treatment.
- To empower and protect our health- workers on the frontline, scientists and industry players have initiated trainings for doctors, nurses and other such workers including Asha and Anganwadi workers.
- Our IT and health research institutions have come together with industry for components that allow this to scale.
- The Indian Council of Medical Research is amplifying test sites and fulfilling the need for more diagnostic tests. More laboratories are being opened for testing across states. Efforts to increase test capacity by the ‘pooling’ of samples are being evaluated.
- Indian labs are developing new tests, globally, for the presence, or traces of the virus having visited a person. These can be useful as a first-pass, even if they are cruder than the ‘gold-standard’ RT-PCR test.
- Indian researchers are also embarking on research projects on serological research studies, which possess the scope to inform about the extent and distribution of infection and immunity.
- The role of startups and incubators has been astounding in these times of challenges wherein they have been working on the highest end drug- repurposing, using AI to predict targets, to making equipment and tools for treatment. For example, to provide medical aid to increasing corona virus patients, IIT Kanpur has announced that it will make portable ventilators to support the government health capacities.
- Our industry is working on vaccines, re-purposing, critical-care treatment and partnering with academia and startups.
- Civil society is critical in such times and it is in this light that NGOs are working with state and central governments. In all these efforts, our scientists, within and outside government, are involved.
“We, sometimes, are critical of our institutions, industry, saying that they are not connected enough to society. Today we see something inspiring. Mathematicians, biologists, clinicians, industry IT coming together intelligently with health professionals, taking on leadership.” says the PSA.
The public health system in India is indeed activated and will create global benchmarks through its concerted efforts in tackling this massive pandemic.