New Delhi: India is not any closer to flattening the Covid curve while Taiwan and China have handled it well and even Pakistan seems to have bent the curve, said ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta in episode 573 of ‘Cut The Clutter’.
According to Gupta, nobody in India seems to be taking the coronavirus seriously. “If one steps out of a big city, nobody seems to be wearing masks,” he said.
Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan also said that the virus is spreading in India because people are irresponsible in the Lok Sabha.
How China contained the virus
US writer Peter Hessler explained how China defeated the virus in his article in The New Yorker.
Hessler wrote that on the eleventh week of the outbreak, he was taking a flight in China where the aircraft was full and no alternate seats were kept empty. Furthermore, during the fourteenth week of the outbreak, the students were back on campuses in China. Hessler also noted that in the city of Chengdu with a population of 16 million people, there were only 71 cases from February till the end of August.
China used methods that were not available to any democracy, according to Hessler. The neighbourhood committees, which are the units of the Communist Party of China, ensured strict tracing and testing. They made wearing masks mandatory both indoors as well as outdoors. There was strict punishment for people not following the protocols of wearing masks.
In schools, there were frequent temperature checks and hand-wash warnings. The children’s health updates were shared with their parents through WeChat groups, said Hessler.
The contact tracers were divided in groups of five to seven, and each one was headed by a public health person. They could go from place to place, ask questions, lock up people, take away those who seemed sick and quarantine them.
These measures, however, are not available in a democracy, said Gupta.
Another country that handled the pandemic well is Taiwan, which is not a dictatorship.
Taiwan is China’s neighbour and has a population of 2.4 crores. Despite almost 30 lakh people traveling between Mainland China and Taiwan in a year, only seven died due to coronavirus.
According to journalist Fareed Zakaria, Taiwan had learnt its lesson from the SARS outbreak in 2003.
“They set up a mechanism and acted as early as in January”, said Gupta. Therefore, it is not the case that only dictatorships can handle the pandemic well.
The case of Pakistan
In Pakistan, over 32 lakh Covid tests have been conducted out of which over 3 lakh were found positive.
Pakistan has almost 6,400 deaths while India has over 88,000 deaths due to Covid.
However, if we look at the absolute data, India has tested 23 times more than Pakistan. India’s testing rates have been increasing from day one, noted Gupta, while Pakistan’s tests and test positivity rate dropped after some time.
A serological survey report published in the Journal of Public Health by Oxford University, revealed that 36 per cent of the population in the city of Karachi are believed to have been exposed to the virus, which means 6 million people were infected with Covid in Karachi itself.
By analysing the data further, we extrapolate that 92-95 per cent of cases are asymptomatic, said Gupta.
Furthermore, in Asia, particularly, South Asia, Covid fatality rates are low. Thus, just like India missed about 60 lakh cases earlier in May, it is possible that Pakistan is also missing out on cases because no one is testing.
This is another approach being followed that when you don’t test, the number of cases do not go up.
Pakistan-origin doctor Faheem Yunus, the head of infectious diseases in US’ University of Maryland, remarked that the country is moving towards herd immunity.
However, no country can move towards herd immunity without a large number of cases, some countries identify these cases though widespread testing and some just don’t, noted Gupta.
Watch the latest episode of CTC here:
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