Even as the nation continues its fight against the Wuhan Coronavirus and tries to stop the spread of the virus, lots of media organisations as spreading panic by claiming that India will face situations like other countries and the current measures are not enough to stop the pandemic to descend into stage 3, which is community spread. Such a report was published by news agency IANS, which was carried by news portals like NDTV and National Herald, which cited a study on Coronavirus done by The Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) in collaboration with John Hopkins University, US. The report claimed that the study has found that the ongoing 21-day national lockdown will not be able to contain the spread of Coronavirus. A screenshot of the cover of the report about India and Coronavirus was widely spread on social media, which showed the logos of CDDEP, JHU and the Princeton University on it.
But when one social media user asked the University whether the study was done by one of their students, the University responded that the use of their logo in the report is unauthorised, and they will be taking the matter with CDDEP. Now, even Princeton University has distanced itself from the report. Taking to Twitter, Princeton Univeristy too said that the use of their logo was unauthotised and they were looking into the matter.
We did not authorize this use of our logo. We’re looking into it to get it fixed. Thank you.— Princeton University (@Princeton) March 28, 2020
The report was published on 24th March, so presumably, it was published before the national lockdown as it announced by PM Narendra Modi at 8 PM on that day. It disagrees with such a measure and says that border closures at this stage have little to no impact and add further economic disruption and panic. “A national lockdown is not productive and could cause serious economic damage, increase hunger, and reduce the population resilience for handling the infection peak”, the report says.
In an interview with controversial journalist Barkha Dutt for her venture Mojo, CDDEP director Ramanan Laxminarayan had said, “if we have to do a lockdown, it would be now. We should lock down now, for a two-week period”. He had stressed that “we need it immediately.” The interview was published on 21st March, but surprisingly, just three days later, Laxminarayan’s report published a report arguing against the nationwide lockdown to control Coronavirus spread.
It is important to note that Dr Ramanan Laxminarayanan is not a doctor. He has a PhD degree who is recently being projected as a doctor and a health expert by several news organisations.
Ramanan Laxminarayanan is a UPA-era public health entrepreneur and has worked for a little-known not-for-profit organisation named Public Health Foundation of India for the last four years.
It is rather interesting that an unverified report was touted by the media to paint a grim picture of India, from which John Hopkins University and the Princeton University have distanced themselves only days a PhD holding was touted as a ‘Doctor’ to fear-monger against India during the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak. The media’s credibility, which has an ever dwindling credibility, seems at an all-time low when even amidst an epidemic, facts and people who are touted as experts are not even verified before spreading panic amongst the people.
Update: Responding to this report, Princeton University said that they have contacted the researchers at CDDEP, and their logo is being removed from the report as the university didn’t authorise the same.
But Princeton University said that the work was indeed done at Princeton and is being submitted for peer review. This means CCDEP had published a report making sweeping conclusions even before its peer review was done. This is a questionable act by the organisation, as no research report is published without doing peer review.