Follow Us:

Trouble ahead

By the end of this week, India should overtake Brazil to record the second-highest number of afflictions; already it has overtaken the South American nation in terms of active cases, and by a considerable measure.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

It is incredible that India should claim even a modicum of success in tackling the coronavirus epidemic when statistics suggest quite the opposite.

By the end of this week, India should overtake Brazil to record the second-highest number of afflictions; already it has overtaken the South American nation in terms of active cases, and by a considerable measure.

And if both India and the United States continue to record cases at the pace they are presently doing, Mr Donald Trump may claim the dubious distinction of having pulled his country down from the top rank to number 2 by the time his campaign is in its final and decisive stage.

And to think that both the United States and Brazil were accused of whimsical management of the epidemic while we patted ourselves on the back for taking decisive and early counter measures! While conceding that statistics can be misleading, it must be noted that India today is recording nearly as many cases in a day as China ~ with a larger population ~ has reported during the entire duration of the epidemic, a period of about eight months.

And if population density is to be blamed for India’s woes, let it be noted that Bangladesh has nearly thrice as many people per square kilometre as India does, 12 per cent of India’s population; and only about 9 per cent of its cases and less than 7 per cent of India’s deaths.

In short, in its management of the public health crisis, Bangladesh has run rings around India, with a lower per capita income. Thus, while it may be possible to draw solace from the low fatality rate in India, or from the high recovery rate, or to blame the incidence of cases on higher testing when we are not arguing for more tests, perhaps it is time to accept that our management of the virus outbreak has been a disaster, having aided neither the economy nor the health of citizens.

For it must now be acknowledged that nearly three times as many people are dying in India every day than they are in the United States or Brazil, and that India has reached the top spot in terms of the daily deaths it records.

But it will not do to blame either the Union or state governments for the immediate crisis, or even to say it has been exacerbated by a defiance of safety norms. Despite higher initial fatalities in several countries around the world, in part because their leaders failed to appreciate the scale of the challenge, they were able to recover because of the
inherent robustness of their public health infrastructure.
While the measures India took initially
covered up the frailties of its infrastructure, now these are being ruthlessly exposed, in state after state. With India’s expenditure on health pegged at 1.28 per cent of GDP, behind even the world’s poorest nations, we had for decades been asking for trouble. Now we seem to have got it.