Editorial

India’s economic crisis is compounded by the high number of daily Covid cases

| Updated on September 04, 2020 Published on September 04, 2020

It has been 40 days since the US reached its peak. However, India appears to be still peaking

In the first four days of this month, India has had the highest number of fresh Covid-19 cases as also the daily death count, barring Friday, when Brazil reported 1,215 deaths in 24 hours against 1,043 deaths in India. The number of fresh cases in India has also been consistently over 50,000 per day, with the daily count on Friday registering a staggering 83,883 cases — almost double that of the US (42,662) and Brazil (42,659). While it is true that India’s population is about four times that of the US and six times that of Brazil, the absolute numbers tell a story. It has been 40 days since the US reached its peak. However, India appears to be still peaking. Besides, the disease is now more evenly spread — the hinterland is adding more hotspots while the existing ones, the metros, continue to contribute significant numbers to the overall spread.

The metropolises were somehow able to cope with this rapid spread, as super speciality hospitals, doctors and health providers are concentrated here. The danger underlying the spread in backward districts of West Bengal, Assam and Bihar is that, besides the lack of awareness, the number of hospitals, ICU beds, doctors, nurses and health providers is abysmally low. There are some significant takeaways here. Awareness needs to be raised dramatically in the rural parts where the perception is that Covid is a mere flu leading to a disregard for observing precautions such as social distancing and wearing masks. This could be aggravating the spread. Testing, which now is focussed on the urban agglomerations, needs to be ramped up in the rural hinterland and the infected quarantined. Health infrastructure, with respect to labs and personnel, needs attention in the northern and eastern regions in particular, where it is woeful. For instance, Covid test samples from Jharkhand are being sent to Gurugram, a process that takes days.

Even if India has among the lowest case-fatality rate of 1.87 per cent, the absolute number of people requiring intensive care would be high. Protective gear to health workers, who are already under extreme stress, must be reached on a war footing, while delays in disbursements of their salaries should be addressed. A population hit by the worst economic crisis in four decades should not be subjected to the high out-of-pocket expenditure that treatment for Covid-19 patients entails. Public health infrastructure must be beefed up especially because insurance penetration is almost zero in the hinterland. India must do what it takes to beat back Covid, as the economic and human costs can mount further.

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Published on September 04, 2020
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