More than 350 scientists in India have signed a petition begging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to publicly release crucial COVID-19 data in a desperate attempt to mitigate the spread and predict the next surge.
Some fear that Modi’s desire to keep such vital information on variants, tests carried out, recovered patients, and vaccine efficacy secret suggests that the 18.7 million cases reported and 208,330 deaths might be a radical understatement of the scale of the problem.
India logged an astonishing 386,452 new cases Friday as fresh appeals for more space and firewood for cremations compounded the lack of hospital beds and oxygen.
The petition asks Modi to release “granular” data, the Associated Press reports. That data could be used to help mitigate future surges to better prepare with hospital beds, oxygen, and even intensive care units. Without sufficient data, scientists are unable to do anything but stand by and watch the situation get worse.
The appeal also blames Modi’s drive to make India self-reliant by importing medical raw materials rather than full vaccines and supplies, calling his government’s actions an obstacle. “Such restrictions, at this time, only serve to impede our ability to deal with COVID-19,” the appeal says, according to the AP.
India’s army chief M.M. Naravane has also offered the use of military hospitals to help take pressure off public facilities, telling desperate families to go to nearby bases to ask for help in a move that Modi originally resisted.
Starting Saturday, all Indian citizens over 18 will eligible for a vaccine where they are available. Health Minister Harash Vardhan said aid sent by 40 countries has started to take some pressure off the collapsed health system. On Friday, the first of the $100 million worth of supplies from the U.S. arrived, including a first shipment of the pledged 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks, and 1 million rapid antigen tests.