« Horror story of virus mismanagement »
As that headline makes clear, at the time of writing, on March 13, India’s death toll from the virus stood at: ONE!
Some people were surely in a hurry to write off India.
But if they were looking for bodies piling up in the streets, that did not happen. But the virus hasn’t gone away either. The pandemic continued to weave its way through India’s vast population. In recent days, the headlines have turned disastrous.
The highest on record, the highest in the world, the fastest growing …
Headlines continue to grab headlines as the world watches India progress slowly to move the United States and Brazil from the top of the global coronavirus rankings. One of these countries is the most powerful in the world. Both have a population of less than a quarter of India.
And the national media told it all. But how is India really doing? What is behind the “highest in the world” figure of 80,000 cases per day?
Well, on the one hand, there are tests. India is testing at a capacity unmatched in the world. Regularly do around 12 lakh tests per day. For comparison, the highest ever achieved by the United States was 9.3 lakh tests in one day.
Did I mention that the United States only has a population of about a quarter of India?
As the same Johns Hopkins University page will explain, the significant number to watch is the percentage of tests that come back positive. For India, it is currently around 7.5%. For the United States, it is 5.5-6%. The comfort level for the WHO is a rate of 5% or less for 14 consecutive days.
So are we really that far? And does India really have the fastest covid pandemic in the world?
As you can see, most of South America is in deep red when it comes to sharing positive tests. In Mexico, it is 49.6%. It’s almost half. In Argentina, it is 55%. More than half! What about Brazil? Don’t ask because they don’t provide data. It’s 18% in Indonesia, 13% in South Africa, 9% in Spain and so on.
Does anyone seriously think that the pandemic is growing faster in India than in countries that report a positive test rate of 50-55%?
Let’s not blame India because much of the rest of the world has adopted a ‘don’t ask don’t say’ policy towards the coronavirus.
The positive test rate is just the start. There are two other crucial metrics on which India performs similarly to a superstar.
These are recovery rate and mortality rate.
If you catch the coronavirus, wouldn’t you like to know if you are going to recover? Would you like to know if you are going to die? Sounds pretty important, right?
India’s recovery rate is now 77%. In other words, more than 3/4 of those infected with the virus have already recovered. How is the rest of the world doing?
Did you know that in France, only 87,000 of the 3 lakh people who caught the coronavirus have recovered so far? It’s not even 30%.
Why choose France? On the one hand, it is a very developed Western European nation. Second, the healthcare system in France is ranked No. 1 in the world.
So let’s face France and see how we come together.
France has 67 million inhabitants. Gujarat has a population of 6.3 million people. So how is France dealing with Gujarat?
Yesterday, France reported 7,000 cases of Coronavirus. Gujarat has reported 1,300 cases. So right off the bat, Gujarat is marking the country with allegedly the best healthcare system in the world.
In terms of total cases, Gujarat reported 1 lakh case and France reported 3 lakh cases.
What about the recovery rate? Gujarat has a recovery rate of around 81%. And France has a recovery rate of 29%.
What about mortality? Gujarat has a death rate of 3%, with a total of 3,000 deaths. In contrast, France has reported 30,000 deaths. Literally 10 times the number. This is not good news all around, but we can surely notice that one number is 10 times greater than the other.
In terms of positive tests, France is currently at 3.6% and Gujarat at 1.7%. In other words, Gujarat is testing at a much higher volume than France.
Let’s take a moment to absorb this information. Face to face with France, Gujarat is ahead on every metric. And not just a little early. Miles ahead. They say France has the best healthcare in the world. And if prominent journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai are to be believed, Gujarat is one of our worst performing states when it comes to health.
So if our “worst” are so much better than the best in the world, could we be doing that wrong?
This is not only the case with Gujarat. Many other states have equally amazing records when you face European countries. Most of our large states have populations comparable to the large nations of Western Europe.
There is a lesson here for policy makers, the media, and the general public. The virus hit us hard, but in many ways our performance has been excellent. Our health care system does not even have a fraction of the funding and facilities that a country like France would have. But by the time of the disaster, we managed to pull it together and play it in a way that just beats just about everyone.
Our recovery rate is extremely high. Our death rate is extremely low.
We are testing on a larger scale than anyone can imagine. Our India and we should be proud of it.
We can deliver on a scale that other countries can only dream of.
The lesson for policy makers? With a few exceptions, end all lockouts – we’ve done pretty well.
The lesson for the media and the people? End unnecessary pessimism. Let us get to work to restore our economy.