COVID: WHO Chief Scientist Swaminathan says India’s situation is ‘worrying’


Soumya Swaminathan, the chief scientist of the World Health Organization (WHO) has termed the rate of infections and deaths of India’s second wave as “worrying”, on Monday, May 10.

And she had raised on call on the government to report actual numbers to take appropriate measures to save the country.

In an exclusive interview with ANI, Swaminathan said, “I would say that at this point in time, the situation is very worrying, the daily number of cases and deaths that we are seeing today in India and other countries in the Southeast area region is a big concern for us and we also realize that these are underestimates. Every country in the world, in fact, the number of cases and deaths has been underestimated to its true number.”

She added that these are only projections and the future can be changed with appropriate measures taken on time and governments to have complete transparency by reporting actual numbers.

Maria Van Kerkhove, a technical lead at WHO on COVID-19 said that the ‘double mutant’ variant has been a global concern, as many studies show that it spreads more easily.

“We are classifying this as a variant of concern at a global level,” said Kerkhove on a briefing.

To this, Dr Swaminathan added, “It should be done and we should be aware because the better the data, the better the policies can be directed towards what is happening. Let’s remember, people are not just dying of COVID, people are also dying of other illnesses for which they are not able to access healthcare.”

She also said studies were underway in India to examine the variant’s transmissibility, the severity of the disease it causes, and the response of antibodies in people who have been vaccinated.

She also said that the double mutant – B.1.617 – is highly transmissible and a WHO committee has classified it as a ‘variant of concern’.

“For now, the message is that it will be more transmissible, but it behaves the same way as other viral strains replicate the same proportions. Vaccines are still very effective against every variant in the world in protecting against severe disease and hospitalizations,” she informed.

Swaminathan also called on countries to continuously update policies regarding the pandemic, which should be based on science and data.

“We have to continue to adapt our policies. We cannot become stagnant. What is needed first is to call strong leadership which is based on science and data at public health principles. That needs to be updated from time to time even if you take treatment,” Swaminathan added. The WHO scientist also urged data transparency in different countries and that people should be explained why certain decisions are being made and the rationale behind them.

Earlier today, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the WHO Foundation was launching a “Together for India” appeal to raise funds to purchase oxygen, medicines and protective equipment for health workers.

India is currently battling a deadly second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is believed to being led by the ‘double mutant’. The current wave has strained the country’s health infrastructure and overburdened frontline medical workers.