COVID-19: Lessons From China - ICN INDIA

COVID-19: Lessons From China

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By: Prof Santosh kumar

Note: Views are personal and it doesn’t reflect official views.

NEW DELHI: The deadliest virus in recent times has spread its wings to almost 29 countries around the world, India is also one of them. After China, Italy and Korea have alerted their people regarding Coronavirus spread. Italy also ordered lockdown for virus hit areas. If we take a new phenomenon of China which is reeling under the severe impact of Corona virus disaster. Until late 2019, this was not known popularly in public domain. Now it is well known and it is considered as a global threat. China alone has lost billions of dollars as its economic impact and lost nearly 3329 lives and more than 81669 are affected. WHO has declared COVID-2019 as Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) for Global Communities. India too have found 3588 positive cases.

It is seen that Cases were initially identified in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province in China in December 2019. Cases now reported outside China have predominantly been in people who have recently travelled to Mainland China, however a few cases of local transmission have also occurred. China is tackling the epidemic on war footing.

As various sources defines it, coronavirus is one of many viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, coronaviruses cause respiratory tract infections that are typically mild, such as the common cold, though rarer forms such as SARS, MERS and COVID-19 can be lethal as its affect throat and quickly affecting respiratory system. Symptoms vary in other species: in chickens, they cause an upper respiratory tract disease, while in cows and pigs they cause diarrhoea. There are no vaccines or antiviral drugs to prevent or treat human coronavirus infections.

The outbreak began in December 2019. The repeated mingling of people and animals in china means that viral mutations that infect humans are likely to arise. The number of reported cases are rising exponentially. Many experts have praised China’s way of handling this new epidemic disaster. Its scientists have coped better with the Wuhan virus than they did with SARS in 2002-2003.The quarantine process, scientific intervention, diagnosis, treatment facilities, treatment of the patients, isolation of the city and individuals probably would have a challenge in South Asian nations, Africa and in  many other countries of the World. It is being said that China could do it because of the authoritarian government. The GDP of China has slipped. It is estimated that their growth will be of 2 % which was 6% before the outbreak. Exports have declined. International travel is almost nil. City of Wuhan is deserted. People have imprisoned themselves inside the house. Food is being distributed by the government as home to home delivery. Supply chain has got disrupted as many companies of the world have their manufacturing. China could create new health facilities for treating the virus in record time. All the doctors, paramedic nurses who are attending affected people are not allowed to move out of the Wuhan city to other places. Likewise, the government is also keeping a track of all the people who have moved in and out of China within a month’s period prior to the onset of the virus.

It’s an exemplary way of handling disasters. Party claims that, it is more efficient at governing than democracies. The virus control campaign, it reads, “Find it Early! Treat it Early! Medical fees All Free! (the economist). As The economist, writes that the China response to the virus has been unmistakeably authoritarian, involving the locking down of Hubei’s cities and mandatory orders to stay indoor for a fortnight for those who leave Hubei head to such centres.” at Shanghai.

Now, we see how India would have responded to such situations, if the out break would have happened in any of the state. Currently, India responded exceptionally well in taking out its own people from Wuhan city, quarantine them at the airport/ entry point, geared up its medical emergency team, checking and nudging every individual case, started public campaign for taking precautions, media also played a vital role in informing people about it to avoid any panic situation, in case it is reported positive. India also responded earlier in 2003 at the time of SARS break out. Please note the danger is not over as yet.

Now this situation raises to fundamental questions when it comes to preparedness. How a disaster response system should be developed at the local level? Whether India could have done and handled pandemic in the similar way or would have gone in a more democratic manner? How our governance system could have imposed orders, confinement etc? Whether such stringent measures, which are needed, could have taken so easily in India as China did?  Do we have all agreement with the people or parties, international communities/organisations, protocol where governance can respond together with or without confinement? For such Black Swain events, In India, disaster management governance system has to be re-visited. NDMA, SDMA and DDMA may proactively have a discussion with the concerned authorities and formulate an action plan for the future. Governance’s capacity building actions should be then taken on priority. Thanks to the recommendations of 15th Finance Commission report as they have allocated resources for both risk reduction and capacity development. MHA and NDMA are drafting guidelines for it. May be lessons from China would help in advance planning and outlining protocols. A multi-party crisis management group or discussion is the need of the hour both at the state and national level. Currently, India in the background of novel Covid-19 are taking all preventive measures by IT SAP companies, even in the spread of H1NI in Bengaluru , Gurugram, Mumbai cities by closing their offices and allowing to work from home. May be such preventive measures of avoiding mass congregation, without creating panic be initated for Covid-19 at least for a month.

It is impacting deep on the economy as well as life of the people. As china, despite the stringent measures , has lost nearly 2500 lives  and economy growth slipped by 4 % so far. Can India afford? India is already experiencing a huge economic loss in almost all the disasters-be it floods, cyclone, fire, earthquake etc. Kerala floods 2018 has created an economic loss of almost INR  26000 crores, where its recovery needs are of Rs 32000 approx. Similarly, Cyclone Fani has also lost nearly INR 280000 crores with recovery need of INR 31000 crores. Economic loss and number of affected people are on rise and here lies the challenge.

Global economy of country’s interdependence on each other is experiencing direct and indirect loss due to various disasters. Thailand floods of 2011 led to the breaking of supply chain of goods and services. Similar situation has aroused in China as many companies have their manufacturing units there, facing a huge challenge in the continuity of business due to supply chain management. India itself is not allowing any shipment from china. And, this could happen with any country. There is need to bring private sector on the board too.

Disaster is an issue of development governance. Protection of the citizens’ from the disaster is a fundamental constitutional right under the Article 14, Right to Life with dignity. So, in the changing scenario, it is time to pause, ponder and redefine the governance of disaster management in the country.

Prof.Santosh Kumar,Ph.D
Professor & Head
Governance, Policy Planning & Inclusive DRR
National Institute of Disaster Management
Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India & Sr. Consulting Editor-ICN (Hony.)
formerly,
Director, SAARC Disaster Management Centre,
Executive Director, (I/C) NIDM, MHA, Govt of India
Disaster Management Specialist, The World Bank
Professor & Head, Centre for Disaster Management, HCM RIPA, Jaipur
Deputy Director, Research, UP Academy of Administration, Nainital

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