NEW DELHI | May 20, 2021: As India and its health system are at a critical moment facing a second wave of the worst pandemic in a century, The Rockefeller Foundation released a strategic roadmap for strengthening testing and tracing to help control this surge and to manage future waves. “The Road Ahead for Smart Covid-19 Testing and Tracing in India” is an evidence-based report with recommendations to support equitable, cost-effective, and scalable solutions in India that will bolster the country’s pandemic response in a resource-constrained environment. The report is based on insights and inputs from an expert advisory panel convened by the Foundation over the course of seven months.
Last week, the World Health Organization reclassified the highly contagious B.1.617 strain, which was first identified in India, as a “variant of concern.” As noted by India’s Health Minister and public health experts, the B.1.617 variant has contributed to the recent surge in Covid-19 cases and the resulting strain on hospitals and medical resources. The strain has two key mutations that have raised concerns amongst scientists. While India has continued to ramp up vaccination efforts, testing and tracing, remains a critical public health mitigation measure to identify where the virus is spreading and target resources accordingly. Testing is also vital to genetic sequencing and identifying new or circulating variants.
“The urgency of beating Covid-19 – and the risk of further variant outbreaks that prolong it – require us to use every tool we can imagine right now to end the pandemic for everyone, everywhere”, said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “The recommendations in our report make a case for reinforced testing and tracing measures to limit the ongoing pandemic and avert impending ones.”
Commenting on the report, the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, Prof. K. Vijay Raghavan, said, “Since the outbreak of the pandemic, constant testing and tracing has benefited us significantly. This was possible due to the speedy advancement through science, technology, and innovation. Quick recalibration of priorities and impact-driven public-private partnerships have steered us to achieve better capacity in testing, diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines. This focused report, with actionable recommendations, can serve as a resource in informing us specifically in areas of testing and tracing.”
The Rockefeller Foundation collaborated with experts and other prominent organizations to develop the report. “The Road Ahead for Smart Covid-19 Testing and Tracing in India” outlines how the country can strengthen its testing and tracing capacity to adapt to this moment, break the surge, and control future outbreaks, focusing on five critical opportunities for devising an equitable, cost-effective, and scalable Covid-19 response:
- Support innovative, equitable, and inclusive testing strategies: In order to effectively protect the population from Covid-19, testing and tracing strategies should be further strengthened and contextualized through a cafeteria-style approach to testing (enabling the availability of a diverse portfolio of tests with clear guidance); undertaking well-designed sero-surveys; setting regulatory pathways and quality checks on new testing technologies; ensuring equitable access to testing; and scaling genome sequencing efforts.
- Centralize pooled procurement for cost-effective and scalable testing: Testing capacity, availability, and accessibility must be improved through using pooled procurement through a consortium facilitated by the Centre to reduce testing costs by a third, incentivize domestic production of testing kits and components, and control testing prices.
- Enhance demand forecast of testing for equilibrium: Doing so will ensure that testing and tracing systems are proactive and testing suppliers are response-ready.
- Collaborate and communicate for uniform and lucid information dissemination: Building collaboration and trust with the public must be prioritized through implementing a transparent data collection and sharing policy for researchers and citizens.
- Scale crucial components of tracing systems: Tracking and tracing require human and technological resources to effectively curb virus outbreaks and provide dignified, destigmatized support to those that test Covid-19 positive.
The Rockefeller Foundation, which has had a more than 100-year relationship with the people of India, is intensifying its efforts to advance an equitable and sustainable path to recovery by leveraging individual and collective strengths. Since the pandemic onset, The Rockefeller Foundation has provided more than $10 million to institutions and programs in India like the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms, UNICEF, the Indian Institute of Technology, the Piramal Swasthya Management and Research Institute, PATH, Covid Action Collab, GiveIndia etc. Earlier this month, the Foundation approved an additional $3.5 million in emergency aid to organizations responding to the current surge of Covid-19 cases.
“Overcoming the challenges posed by Covid-19 requires continuous learning and application of insights to improve public health outcomes,” said Dr. Shah. “This is why we are proud to work with an incredible roster of experts and the office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to support the development of more inclusive testing and tracing strategies for India. Here and across the world, The Rockefeller Foundation remains committed in its efforts to effectuate an equitable and sustainable recovery from this public health crisis, and it is engineering platforms for resilience against future pandemics.”
Expert Advisory Panel:
The Expert Advisory Panel which guided the report includes eminent domain leaders such as Mr. JVR Prasada Rao, Former Union Health Secretary and Former UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS; Dr. Navin Dang, Founder, Dr. Dangs Lab; Prof. Nirmal Kumar Ganguly, Former Director-General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR); Dr. Shirshendu Mukherjee, Mission Director, Grand Challenges India; Dr. Sangita Reddy Joint MD, Apollo Hospitals and Immediate Past President, FICCI; Dr. Shahid Jameel, Director, Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University and Former CEO, Wellcome Trust/DBT Alliance India; Dr. Swati Piramal, Vice-Chair, Piramal Group; Dr. Virander Singh Chauhan, Arturo Falaschi Emeritus Scientist, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and Ms. Manisha Bhinge, Managing Director, Programs, Health Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation.
About The Rockefeller Foundation:
The Rockefeller Foundation is a pioneering philanthropy built on collaborative partnerships at the frontiers of science, technology, and innovation, scaling renewable energy for all, stimulating economic mobility, ensuring equitable access to health and nutritious food, unleashing human potential to enable individuals, families, and communities to flourish. We work to promote the well-being of humanity and make opportunity universal. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at rockefellerfoundation.org and follow us on Twitter @RockefellerFdn
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