As India leads what increasingly looks like a losing battle against a second wave of COVID-19 cases, more than 500 scientists have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a “systematic collection and rapid release” of data on the pandemic, which would make it possible to “have data. – piloted mitigation measures”.

In an open appeal to the prime minister, scientists have issued five demands and write that India being one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic – the country officially reported more than four lakh of fresh infections this morning – the situation “requires rapid and systematic collection, communication and dissemination of data”.

“While new pandemics can have unpredictable characteristics, our inability to adequately manage the spread of infections results, to a large extent, from the fact that epidemiological data is not systematically collected and disseminated in a timely manner to the scientific community. “said their call.

Elaborating on their five requests, scientists, associated with renowned institutions across the country, said the situation called for large-scale genomic testing to look for new variants of the virus, better tests and data to predict the spread of infection, data on inpatient outcomes and the immune response to the vaccination.

They requested access to granular test data with the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), a database that was “inaccessible to anyone outside of government and possibly many members of government as well. Most scientists – including several identified by DST and NITI Aayog to develop new prediction models for India – do not have access to this data. “

Scientists felt that public health measures in a country like India would “necessarily” vary from region to region due to greater “geographic variability in the patterns of spread” of the infection. , hence the need to access the “granular epidemiological data available. with ICMR.”

They wrote that access to clinical data with privacy measures for patients is “necessary for analysis and forecasting, and for estimating needs for oxygen, medical supplies, ventilators, intensive care beds, etc. . Many scientists have tried to obtain data on co-morbidities and blood work from hospitalized COVID-19 patients, without success. “

The scientists also called on the government to fund organizations that collect data based on the sequencing of the genome of the virus and that it be made public. “The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), established for genomic surveillance, only sequenced the coronavirus in about 1% of infected individuals. Increasing the sequencing volume and simultaneously collecting clinical data from infected individuals is crucial to understanding whether a mutated virus is more virulent, ”they said.

The group also called for an expansion of the network of organizations that collect data on immune responses to COVID-19 and the vaccine. He said the “Atmanirbhar Bharat” policy has resulted in the import of scientific equipment and reagents, an “extremely tedious and time consuming process … This has reduced our ability to expand testing by developing new platforms. test and has hampered our ability to sequence viral genomes for rapid and accurate monitoring. “

They mentioned that such “restrictions” would only hamper the country’s ability to counter COVID-19 and called for their removal.

“It is essential now, more than ever, that dynamic public health plans are implemented on the basis of scientific data to stop the spread of infections and save the lives of our citizens,” the call said.

India’s daily tally for COVID-19 passed the grim four lakh milestone this morning, as the death toll rose to 2.11,853 with 3,523 new deaths, according to data updated by the ministry on Saturday. Union Health.