A warning from a forum of scientists about a new variant of COVID-19 spreading around India went ignored amid a surge of cases, some of the scientists told Reuters.
The forum, called the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genetics Consortium (INSACOG), warned health officials in early March of a more contagious variant of the virus called B. 771, and that cases could surge again.
Ajay Parida, a member of ISACOG, told Reuters that the panel knew of the variant as early as February.
ISACOG was set up in late December by a top official who reported directly to to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to Reuters.
Despite the warning, the government did not seek major restrictions to stop the spread, and instead allowed large crowds to attend religious festivals and political rallies.
The Indian government put out an official statement on March 24 warning of the variant. It said that samples from the Maharashtra state found an increase in the number of two specific mutations.
However, Reuters noted that the statement left out that the mutations were of “high concern,” a phrase included in the original draft of the statement.
It was unclear if Modi was ever informed of INSACOG’s findings or saw a draft of the release. His office didn’t return Reuters’ requests for comment.
India is now grappling with a surge in coronavirus infections. The nation incurred a bleak record of 400,000 new coronavirus infections Saturday, after cases topped 300,000 for ten days in a row.
Amid the surge, India opened vaccinations for all adults on Saturday.
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