In South Asia, Lanka Leads and India Lags in Infrastructure, Medical Response to COVID-19 -Deepankar Basu and Priyanka Srivastava

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published Published on May 11, 2020   modified Modified on May 19, 2020

India implemented a lockdown 14 days after it recorded 50 cases. The relatively higher number of cases recorded in India may partly be the result of the government losing two precious weeks before implementing any serious physical distancing measures.

In part one of this three-part series, we presented a picture of the spread of COVID-19 in four South Asian countries. In the second part, we discuss two issues: How prepared – in terms of health infrastructure and income levels – were the four countries to deal with the pandemic? How did the governments respond, in terms of public health measures, to the pandemic?

How prepared were India and the other big countries of South Asia to deal with the coronavirus pandemic? To address this question, we present, in Table 1, data on some indicators of health infrastructure, health expenditure and poverty for Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka from the World Development Indicators Database of the World Bank.

Let us start by looking at two measures of health infrastructure: physicians and hospital beds. Physicians per 1000 persons is lowest in Bangladesh at 0.5. It is followed by India at 0.8 physicians per 1000 persons. Pakistan and Sri Lanka both have a higher figure: 1 physician per 1000 persons. Hospital beds per 1000 persons is lowest in Pakistan, at 0.6, followed by India, at 0.7, and then Bangladesh, at 0.8. With 3.6 hospital beds per 1000 persons, Sri Lanka has more than 5 times the number for the other three countries.

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