The total number of COVID-19 positive cases in India has now crossed the 150-mark. With this, the number of new cases jumped over 35 in just two days. While the government is trying hard to restrict the movement of people by shutting down malls, theaters and avoiding any mass gathering, is it ready to confront a massive outbreak similar to what happened in China and Italy?
Total spending by the government (Centre and states) on the health sector was approximately 1 per cent of GDP in FY18 in India, much lower than the global average of 7.4 per cent of GDP and even lower than 1.3 per cent in low income and lower middle-income nations. According to a report by Motilal Oswal Institutional Equities, what's worse is that India's very-low government spending on medical and public health and family welfare has been stagnant at 0.8- 1.0 per cent of GDP during the past two decades.
China with total 81,116 confirmed cases (as on March 17) spent 2.1 per cent of its GDP (in 2015) on research and development (R&D), as per the World Development Indicator data, similar to the world average. Italy which is the next coronavirus hotspot, with total 27,980 confirmed cases and 3,233 new cases as on March 17, has R&D spends of 1.3 per cent of its GDP. Compared to the global average of 2.1 per cent of GDP, total R&D spend in the world's second most populated nation was only 0.6 per cent in 2015.
The number of researchers per million people in the country was also among the lowest at 216 in India, as against the global average of 1,478 researchers per million people and the average of 775 researchers in middle-income nations.
The situation is grim with inadequate healthcare spends and is nearly impossible to improve in a short-term but all we can do is keep calm and control our movement and follow the basic hygiene to avert this pandemic.