The number of reported Covid-19 cases in India has risen to 1200 with over 30 deaths. With its fragile healthcare sector and an ailing economy at that, there have been rising concerns among the healthcare experts. In an interview with Bloomberg, a dozen of front -line physicians stated that “it is just a matter of time before Covid-19 sweeps India and that India isn’t ready”.
Even though, so far the number of cases is comparatively low, health experts fear that the real tally could be much higher and it has already started spreading at a community level notwithstanding the government’s claim that there is no evidence of “community spread”.
How impactful has the lockdown been in containing the virus?
Among the most effective and practical measures the government has taken is ordering the people of 1.3 billion people to stay indoors for three weeks on March 24. Even when the cases were numbered only in hundreds, India initiated the world’s largest quarantine. However according to experts, chances are, this may not suffice. At places where the poor live in compact quarters, social distancing cannot be carried out as strictly as it is being done in the west.
Additionally, India has sealed off entry in the country since international travellers are supposedly the main carriers. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, as of March 29, 2020, only around 35,000 people had been tested for coronavirus which is just a tiny fraction of a population of 1.3 billion. On the other hand, the US has undertaken over 5 lakhs tests while South Korea that already contained the virus without the need of a mass quarantine tested over 3 lakhs people.
A rundown healthcare system posing major threat
The private healthcare sector has been rapidly flourishing, a staggering 65 percent of the population still has no health insurance. This results in growing pressure on public hospitals most of which are understaffed or overcrowded. Talking about Mumbai, home to over 18 million people, initially, only one public hospital was authorised to test and treat Covid-19 patients. Now there are three hospitals allowed and three quarantine facilities being prepared the number of which is still insufficient.
‘The second most populous country in world, if India is able to contain the virus, there is a chance that the virus can be contained globally,’ said Paul Ananth Tambyah, president of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection.