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IIT Professor responds after Economic Times misquoted him to insinuate that the Indian government ignored warning signs of Covid 2nd wave

On whether election rallies and the Kumbh Mela contributed to the spread, Professor Vidyasagar said it was difficult to establish 'such clear cut links' between the two events and the surge in Coronavirus cases.

On Friday (April 30), an IIT-Hyderabad Professor named M Vidyasagar slammed the Economic Times (ET) for quoting him out of context and insinuating that the Centre ‘deliberately’ ignored the warning signs of the 2nd wave of Coronavirus outbreak in India.

In an article titled, “Panel red-flagged onset of 2nd wave in March 1st week,” and published on Friday, ET had quoted the head of the National Coronavirus supermodel committee Professor M Vidyasagar. “We did highlight the fact in the first week of March that the second wave was on its way and the government should prepare. It was red-flagged to the appropriate people in the government,” the article quoted the IIT Professor as saying.

Furthermore, the article read, “Vidyasagar, however, feels now that people were in ‘denial’ about the second wave. “Around March 8-9, we found that the beta ‘contact’ parameter was growing very high and accordingly started flagging it to people in the government. The pandemic in its second wave had already set in by March and was on course. People were in denial about the second wave,” he said.”

Screengrab of the Economic Times report

ET claimed that the government was in a ‘denial’ mode and thus responsible for the increasing Coronavirus cases in India. To bolster their misleading claim, the newspaper attributed the quote to the IIT-Hyderabad Professor heading the National Coronavirus supermodel committee. Being well aware that such an unverified and outlandish claim will generate widespread public resentment against the incumbent government, the Economic Times went ahead with the publication.

IIT Professor debunks claims that the Union govt was in a ‘denial mode’

Within a few hours, Professor M Vidyasagar took to Twitter to debunk the allegation that the Centre was in a state of denial. While attaching the image of the report, he tweeted, “Since I am quoted in this article, I would like to clarify a few things. First, I never said anyone was “in denial.” It is perhaps a paraphrase but sounds like an accusation, which was never made by me. The rest of my comments (quoted accurately) make that clear.”

ET had also quoted the Secretary of Department of Science and Technology, Professor Ashutosh Sharma. He had drawn a distinction between ‘sounding an alert’ about the 2nd wave and predicting the extent of the surge in Coronavirus cases. He had emphasised that none could predict that the surge in cases during 2nd wave would be 5-10 times higher than that of last year’s peak surge.

Although Economic Times presented the points raised by Dr Ashutosh Sharma as being antagonistic and contradictory to the claims of Professor M Vidyasagar, the latter clarified the same in his subsequent tweets. “Second, Prof. Sharma (Secretary DST) is perfectly right. We did NOT manage to project the correct values for the second peak, because the parameters of the pandemic were changing rapidly, even wildly, until about a week ago,” Professor Vidyasagar said.

He further added, “It is only during the past week that the model parameters stabilized, and we could make reliable projections. These have been shared by Mahindra Agarwal (IIT Kanpur Professor). We now project that the peak is very close at hand, perhaps even next week, at 4 lakhs plus or minus 0.1 lakhs.”

“While we were appointed by DST, we were contacted for inputs by higher authorities in GoI (Government of India) only about three or four times from July last year until now. Each time we gave whatever inputs we had. The last such occasion was April 2nd…Finally, the GoI would be doing a great service to the modelling community if it were to place all data in its possession in the public domain. These include: ratio of hospitalizations to positive tests, sequence data to of patients identify the virus variant, etc,” he concluded.

Economic Times tries to single out ‘political rallies’ and ‘Kumbh’ for rising Coronavirus cases

Besides trying to pin the blame of the second Coronavirus wave in India on the Modi government, Economic Times also attempted to attribute the rising cases to political rallies in West Bengal and the annual Hindu festival of Kumbh. However, Professor M Vidyasagar had clarified that it was difficult to establish ‘clear-cut links’.

On whether election rallies and the Kumbh Mela contributed to the spread, Vidyasagar said it was difficult to establish ‘such clear cut links’ between the two events and the surge in Coronavirus cases. “The second wave was itself triggered because people ignored the Covid-19 protocol, there was reckless socialising, including many weddings. Please note, that spike in Covid cases preceded election rallies by many weeks. Even the Kumbh started on March 11,” he had emphasised.

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Searched termsCovid modelling
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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