What is happening in India’s neighbourhood? While extensive comparative analysis has been done between Europe and US, precious little has been written on the Covid-19 situation in the Indian sub-continent.
We look at the spread of the pandemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka and assess where they stand in comparison to India.
PAKISTAN HAS HIGHEST INCIDENCE PER MILLION POPULATION
India, with 7,69,257 cases has the maximum Covid-19 caseload but looking at the Incidence per Million Population - which is a better indicator of the virus' spread - it becomes clear that Pakistan fares worse.
India, interestingly, has a lower Incidence per Million than even Nepal, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Yes, its massive population is a factor but then the argument could easily be reversed — despite its huge population, India has managed to contain the virus. The numbers could easily have spiralled out of control but the lockdown and other factors helped keep them in check.
In terms of absolute numbers, Bhutan has just 80 reported cases while Myanmar has only 317! Sri Lanka has also done exceedingly well with just over 2,000 total Covid-19 cases.
India’s cases have grown nearly three-fold (2.89 times) in the last one month (June 8 to July 8). Bangladesh has seen a 2.51 times increase while the corresponding multiple in Pakistan is 2.29.
However, the number of cases reported is directly linked to the number of tests conducted by a country. China has the best ratio of tests per one million population of 62,814. China is followed by Bhutan (34,230) and Nepal (19, 861). India has ramped up its testing and at 7,782 it is better on this count than Pakistan (6,750), Bangladesh (5,416) and Afghanistan (2,009) amongst others.
AFGHANISTAN’S POSITIVITY RATE WORST IN THE WORLD
One of the best parameters to gauge if a country is testing sufficiently is to look at the share of tests returning a positive result – this is known as the Test Positivity Rate.
India’s Test Positivity Rate of 7.16% is less than half of Pakistan’s. Bangladesh has a Positivity Rate of almost 20% which means that for every five persons being tested, one is Covid-19 positive.
Alarmingly, Afghanistan has the worst Positivity Rate of 43.35% not only in the neighbourhood but in the world. This basically means that every second person tested in the country is positive, suggesting that the spread is extreme. Not surprising then that they are also testing poorly.
Myanmar has a population of around 5.5 crores and despite the low testing, it has a very low Positivity Rate of just 0.37%. This suggests that a very minuscule percentage of those being tested have contracted the virus – an indication that the nation has largely been able to contain the spread of Covid-19.
China did extensive testing but many experts have raised doubts over the number of cases being reported by the country.
While the Positivity Rate is an important parameter to understand the spread of the virus in a country, the most significant measures are the Mortality Rate and the Tests Per Death, as nothing is more important than saving lives.
NO DEATHS IN BHUTAN, INDIA’S MORTALITY RATE HALF OF CHINA’S
Bhutan is amongst the few nations in the world where there has been no casualty due to Covid-19. A sense of community and national solidarity, limited and controlled tourism, public’s trust in the government (the Prime Minister and Health Minister of Bhutan have a background in public health) and well-prepared machinery (the WHO and the Health Ministry undertook a simulation exercise at Paro airport in November 2019 to deal with potential disease outbreaks) are some of the reasons for this amazing feat by the Himalayan nation.
Meanwhile, Myanmar with six deaths, Sri Lanka with 11 and Nepal with 35 have also done a remarkable job in controlling the fatalities.
Although the number of cases still continue to rise at a fair rate, Bangladesh has a low Mortality Rate of 1.28%.
India has done a great job in containing the number of fatalities due to Covid-19. The country’s Mortality Rate of 2.75% is less than half of China’s, despite the latter being a totalitarian regime.
In terms of Tests Per Covid-19 Death, India with 508 tests per death, has done better than the likes of Bangladesh (406), Pakistan (299) and Afghanistan (82).
India has not only done well when compared with the richer, developed and advanced Western European nations and US, but given its size, population and other challenges, it also fares favourably in its own neighbourhood.