As reported recently in Foreign Policy magazine, the countries making up South Asia account for 25 percent of the world’s population, yet only 2 percent of the total confirmed coronavirus infections. Months after the first recorded case in the region, South Asia has only roughly 60,000 confirmed cases. The US has over a million confirmed cases, while Spain and Italy each are hovering just under a quarter-million.
From the article:
Parsing the numbers. South Asia’s relatively low case numbers are a bit of a puzzle, especially given high population density and poor health care systems across the region. An immediate reaction is to call into question its testing capacity. India has so far conducted only 830,201 tests, or 614 for every 1 million people—among the lowest rates of testing in the world. But if India’s low rate of testing were hiding a massive outbreak, it would show up in other ways. Only 4 percent of India’s coronavirus tests have returned positive, compared with around 17 percent in the United States, implying that the virus is less widespread in India.
Another indicator of a larger outbreak would be the number of deaths. But here the data also shows South Asia in a favorable light. While the United States has recorded more than 60,000 deaths from COVID-19, India counts only 1,079 so far. Those numbers are likely higher—only one-fifth of deaths in India tend to be medically certified—but it is not as if there has been a massive surge in hospital admissions.
Using India’s data as a proxy for the region, the likely takeaway would be that South Asian countries have either succeeded in flattening their curves for now or that they are still in the early stages of their outbreaks. If it’s the latter, then the current state of lockdown ensures the coronavirus won’t spread too rapidly.
What are South Asian countries doing right? What should Western countries learn from them in order to stop the spread of the pandemic?
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Author: Camryn Thomas