COVID-19 Amidst 17 Billion South Asians

Written by S Shiva (Sri Lankan Reporter)

As the panic about the coronavirus COVID-19 continues, the death toll around the world is now at 5359. The number of people infected has also reached 140,875. (Taken as at 13th March 2020)  

If anyone wants to see the current active cases of Coronavirus, there is a direct link which gives all the correct information on the countries involved and the number of deaths.

Please click here – https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html?fbclid=IwAR00Ec5doUUVjXXJB-pwp_x1xm28c0IXX7dEzLUxbGymvBtmo8mtv9q3OPw#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6 

Meanwhile, the sudden spate of infections in Iran, South Korea, and most surprisingly Italy; has brought to heart of the many South Asian governments that nobody is immune. The numbers infected and dead there has been skyrocketing over the past few days. The infection count is now 10,149 for Italy, 8,142 for Iran, and 7,755 for South Korea. Italy is also the country with the highest number of deaths so far, after China, with 631 dead. This is an over 5% death rate. Such speed of infection and death-rate over just the past two weeks, brings into suspect the official numbers quoted by China for infections and death. 

Meanwhile, the people in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh number over 1.7 billion, which is nearly a fifth of the world’s population. Taking into consideration the speed at which COVID – 19 is spreading; researchers fear that the South Asian countries may not be able to keep up with the medical expertise needed to control the spread of the coronavirus, and the burden of the intensive care needed by patients if the disease starts wreaking haywire. Airport regulations on COVID-19 in many of the South Asian countries are not as stringent as should be, either. 

The traces of the disease have already started showing themselves last week, when the number of infected patients in India shot up from 6 to 82 (as at the 13th March 2020). Pakistan too had its first 21 COVID-19 patients, and Afghanistan now has 7 cases. Pakistan is not taking any precautions yet in regards to getting the country ready for battling this virus. There have been no precautions taken at all.  

Nepal has not shown any changes in the official statistics of 1 patient and Sri Lanka has now reached 5 patients. However, a number of suspected patients were reported in the media were reported in Sri Lanka, before all information about these victims reached a dead end, leaving them unconfirmed. The country also seems to only pay attention to test those who visited the coronavirus-prone countries of China, Iran, South Korea and Italy, and even these tests only occur if the person shows COVID19 symptoms. No attempt seems to be made to quarantine or check those who were in close contact with the patient. And yet the reports say that there is only one case. In such a situation, there seems to be an almost deliberate freeze on the statistics, making the people wonder if the state might have done it to try to revitalize the flagging economy. 

 WHO has declared the COVID-19 as a pandemic and in a recent statement by the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau who is in self quarantine at the moment as his wife is diagnosed with the COVID-19, has pledged 1 billion dollars towards the prevention of the infection.  

Trudeau said that, aside from the travel advisory, there will be steps taken to prevent infections. 

“We are looking to reduce the number of airports that will accept travellers from overseas in order to be able give the proper resources on all arrivals to ensure we’re doing everything we can to keep Canadians and Canada safe,” he said. 

President Donald Trump too made a statement stating that most European flights will be stopped as well as cargo and flights from both Europe and China will stop. Since then, President Donald Trump has declared national emergency in 12 states.  

People are stocking up on food supplies and other essential home supplies in China, North America and Europe. In Canada, some companies are taking it easy but many companies are making work from home mandatory. Most countries in the South Asian subcontinent are not taking any precautions and the governments of these nations have not taken any steps on a national level. With a population of 1.7 billion, we don’t know what the future for South Asia will be in the midst of the deadly COVID-19.