One Major Reason why India is botching up COVID-19 response

By Subhash Chandra, CEO, CrowdWisdom360

Yesterday we reported 3600+ new Cases. The highest till date. The chances of this remaining in control by end of lockdown are relatively slim.

Take the case of Maharashtra. It reported a mammoth 1567 cases, the highest ever in a single day. But it has been doing the same number of tests (almost) for the last 6 days. The case with Gujarat is the same. If you are unable to scale your tests 2x/3x in two of your most Industrialised States, you are looking at a very long lockdown. That brings me to two observations –

One, some people are getting frustrated. They have sacrificed for the last 50 days and after 17th ,May, they would like to get on with their lives. Another set of people have come to the conclusion that this will keep happening, so let us get on with our lives because afterall commerce is extremely important. We may lose a few people along the way but well, that is life!

If a full lockdown comes to end with the current spread characteristics, the scale of losses in life would be unimaginable and hence another lockdown would become inevitable. No Politician is going to not do another lockdown when losses cross 50000. 

The State of Healthcare

This comes to the central point of this article. One reason we really struggling inspite of lockdown is the state of healthcare is extremely important on how States can respond to the crisis. This is particularly true for States with high density cities. Let me read out Table 3.1 for Niti Aayog’s December 2019 report 

Total physicians, nurses and midwives per 10000 population

MP: 33

Maharashtra: 43

Gujarat: 43

Delhi: 44

TN: 71

India: 48

Amongst the States with the highest confirmed cases, just Tamil Nadu has more than India average of healthcare workers. Not surprisingly also that Maharashtra (19%), Gujarat (21%) and MP (16%) have the worst death rates in the entire country. Though the death rates have been coming down (due to early detection). Even at about 5%, some States will lose 1-2k people by the end of the lockdown period. It is subtantial given the large economic cost we have paid to save about 50000 lives.

Tamil Nadu has done a splendid job controlling deaths (Inspite of its relative older population and number of infections) 2.2 % Deceased,  but not so in controlling the number of cases.

In case of Delhi, the access to large number of high quality Central Government hospitals has also kept its death rate under control at just 4.3%. Inspite of its ordinary healthcare situation, Delhi has also managed to scale up tests quite well. It does about 3800 Tests a day, quite high given its small population. 

This linkage between deaths and state of healthcare has also been found in other countries – Germany vs Italy is one example. Israel too has done a splendid job.

While there isn’t much we can do in the middle of a crisis beyond innovating and also that healthcare is not the ONLY reason why we are struggling (as we can see with the low number of cases in Bihar), it is imperative that voters pay more attention to this in the future. We can’t be losing so many people because we are not investing in healthcare.