COVID is a wake up call for all of us in India…..the Government authorities, bureaucrats and citizens alike.
India’s leading scientists including the late Padma Shri Dr Lalji Singh (father of DNA Fingerprinting in India, institution builder, world renowned geneticist & microbiologist) have been advocating for years the need for Govt intervention to drive increased penetration of affordable and accessible diagnostic services to India’s 60%+ population that live in rural areas. Numerous proposals have been submitted in parliament and to relevant ministries. His vision of a network of diagnostic service centers spread across India’s land mass through the Genome Foundation is the type of infrastructure the country needs to have an effective response system to pandemics such as COVID-19. Should a similar virus originate within India, in the absence of such an infrastructure the results could be catastrophic.
The immediate responsiveness of the Govt authorities to the COVID-19 situation is commendable. However, a focus on Control (through lock downs, quarantine, social distancing) and Awareness are short term measures at best. For the long term the critical pillars of Detection and Treatment need extensive development and investment. India alone has close to a fifth of the world’s population, has a unique genetic diversity and approx. 60% reside in villages. Refer below info-graphic.
As the head of the World Health Organization has repeatedly called out in the fight against COVID-19: ‘Our key message is: test, test, test‘.
We need Public & Private partnership to urgently expand testing and diagnostic infrastructure across the country including areas where it may not be economically viable. The private sector franchising model alone will not scale, this is why Government intervention to build this infrastructure is critical.