NEW DELHI: Despite additional funding, the continued lack of medical investment and healthcare infrastructure will present challenges to mounting an effective response in India against COVID-19 pandemic, Fitch Solutions has said.
“The continued lack of medical funding and healthcare infrastructure inform our view for the potential epidemic to be worse in India if it is not adequately contained,” Fitch Solutions Country Risk and Industry Research (a unit of Fitch Group) said in its outlook for India’s pharmaceutical market.
With 8.5 hospital beds per 10,000 citizens and eight physicians per 10,000, the country’s healthcare sector is not equipped for such a crisis.
Moreover, the significant inefficiency, dysfunctioning and acute shortage of the healthcare delivery systems in the public sector do not match up with the growing needs of the population
In addition, more than 80 per cent of the population still does not have any significant health insurance coverage, and approximately 68 per cent of the Indians have limited or no access to essential medicines.
Furthermore, over the last two decades, the availability of free medicines in public healthcare facilities has declined from 31.2 per cent to 8.9 per cent for inpatient care, and from 17.8 per cent to 5.9 per cent for outpatient care, the rating agency said citing a Public Health Foundation of India study.
It also said that the growth within India’s pharmaceuticals and healthcare market will be supported by the government’s push towards achieving universal health coverage status.
An improving business environment and planned healthcare reforms will be positive for innovative drugmakers and as such the market will continue to hold significant potential as the third-largest pharmaceutical market in the Asia-Pacific region, it said.
How To Fight Covid
The coronavirus pandemic has been one that has been raging for over two years now worldwide. However, its spread and impact have been significantly reduced in certain countries since it was first discovered, and there are various reasons for that. Fighting covid isn’t just a medical issue. It’s a social one, too, meaning that changes in the way that people live their lives can have a hugely positive effect on how this virus is dealt with in India.
Here are a few suggestions on what can be done in India, based on what has been done around the world, which can help improve the situation.
Although other elements and areas of society can effectively battle this virus, the medical field is where most of the progress is going to be made. The issue in India, which has already been disclosed, is that there are obviously not enough healthcare professionals to serve the nation, which this national emergency has illustrated. This means that structuring or creating any form of medical response or plan will create far too much pressure for the healthcare system in the country to cope with.
One of the first things that should be done is to focus on recruiting more nurses and healthcare professionals. Of course, these roles are usually highly desired and sought after, but with these roles’ current stress and difficulty, convincing people to enlist and train in these professions will be an uphill battle.
In other countries, the wages of nurses and healthcare staff has shot up to incentivize people to consider joining a very in-demand role. India needs to do the same if there is going to be any chance of providing more nurses and improving the ratio of healthcare staff to civilians.
However, attracting new staff is one issue, but training them quickly enough to a standard where they can perform their role effectively is another challenge. Training to become a nurse can take multiple years, years that India simply does not have. Furthermore, not enough people have the required access to these institutions in India, meaning that the pool of people who can actually get trained to be a nurse is pretty limited.
There is a solution to both these issues, and it’s in the form of online education. With courses done completely online, Indian students can quickly obtain a qualification in nursing through institutions like Wilkes University. More people have access to the internet in India than they do the means to fund a University education on campus, allowing more people to train as a nurse and quickly enter the job role so that more people can support Covid patients and improve the level of care that they receive.
In the meantime, as the reserves of qualified healthcare professionals build up in India, another solution to improve the number of people able to provide covid related medical assistance is to draft in the army. Nations in Europe and around the world have used their armed forces to help with a crucial aspect of providing medical care, and that’s to provide vaccines.
In nations where there has been a significant vaccine rollout, such as in the UK, there has been a huge, noticeable drop in covid-related deaths and hospitalizations. As a result, as fewer people are getting seriously sick from the virus, it has provided some relief on their healthcare system, the same type of relief which would do the Indian healthcare system some good.
Currently, only 32.5% of the population in India is double vaccinated against Covid-19, which is significantly lower than a lot of its Asian neighbors as well as most nations within Europe too.
There are a few reasons why this may be the case. The first is that the rollout of the vaccine has been a lot slower than other nations, simply because India has lacked the infrastructure to get it out there quickly. This should improve as more healthcare professionals join the industry, and the army is drafted to set up vaccination centers around the country.
Another significant factor for this low proportion is that there’s a lot of negative feelings surrounding the vaccine within the country, with many people skeptical of its safety and effectiveness. These are valid concerns, as no other vaccines in world history have been developed as quickly and implemented at such a large scale. However, on the flip side, no other vaccine has the same amount of funding and dedicated research on it. As time has passed, it’s clear that the vaccine has helped a lot in countries with a higher percentage of vaccination. It is very safe, with only a minuscule, trace amount of people reporting any complications. For Indian people to take up the vaccine, more education and awareness need to be done to rest people’s fears.
Despite being a key player in the fight against covid in India, it is not the only factor in improving the situation. Changes in society can also play a big part in stopping the spread, and many countries have seen amazing results by adopting various social changes to their environment.
The first big social change is imposing and sticking to lockdowns. These were highly prevalent in 2020, and in various points of 2021, with nations in Europe and countries like Australia and New Zealand implementing harsh regulations where people were forbidden to leave their homes. This is proven to be one of the most effective ways of stopping the spread of the virus, as data has shown that immediately after a lockdown, the death rate and infection rate all drop significantly.
However, in 2021, countrywide lockdowns are becoming more of a last resort. This is because, despite their ability to stop covid, it comes at a terrible expense to the economy, as stores and entertainment venues have to close down during this period. Most countries will now be looking to avoid a lockdown in an attempt to protect their people financially.
Additionally, a lockdown might not actually be the best idea for a nation as populous and compact as India. In countries where a lockdown has worked, such as in New Zealand, they had the luxury of space, meaning that people found it a lot easier to stay away from each other. This will be a lot harder to achieve in India, especially in built-up slums, which could impact the effectiveness. Furthermore, there’s a high chance that a lot of people will not be able to adhere to the restrictions of a lockdown, as they rely on being outside at markets and on streets for their income.
With a lockdown being a solution that isn’t viable for India, there must be another option. Something that worked well for other nations is to impose travel bans to and from other foreign countries to contain the virus and limit its spread globally.
Again, this might not suit India, as for this tactic to work; your nation already needs a pretty low number of cases. Otherwise, the virus will just spread amongst the people there. Using new Zealand as an example again, only because they have the best record in the world for dealing with the virus, they shut their borders for the entirety of the peak of the pandemic, not even allowing their own citizens in. This worked really well for them, but also only because it was done in conjunction with a national lockdown. If India is unable to do the same, then there’s really no point imposing a travel ban, if only to limit the spread of the virus from India to other nations.
Thankfully, there are a few things people can do within society to help improve the covid situation within India.
The first is to improve your hygiene. This means that if people take the time to wash their hands more and bathe more regularly, they will improve their chances of not catching the virus, as they will be cleaning it off their bodies.
The reason this is important is that, although covid can’t infect you through your skin, if you have particles of the virus on your hand and then go to wipe your eye, eat some food before washing your hands, or get the particles in a cut, you could get infected that way.
However, much like the other social solutions, this is again easier said than done. The reason for this is that a lot of people in India do not have regular access to running water, and when they do, they need it for other purposes, like drinking and cooking food. This means that washing hands regularly for these people is a lot harder to do, meaning that they’re more at risk of getting the virus.
A way to combat this issue is to offer and give out anti-bacterial gels. This doesn’t need water to be effective at cleaning your hands and killing off dangerous germs. If hand-gels are made readily available, then it could really help stop the spread of the virus within India.
Although, there is one better way of stopping the spread via social means: wearing a mask. Covid-19 is an airborne virus, meaning that it best spreads by attaching itself to particles within the air. These particles can then travel long distances and eventually be breathed in by a person, which causes them to get it.
The best way to protect yourself from this is to cover your airways with a facemask. Facemasks do a great job at stopping germs and viruses from both leaving your airways and entering them. So, if a policy is implemented where facemasks become mandatory within India, that should help a lot with reducing the spread of the virus. This is also the easiest thing that can be done within society as it doesn’t affect modern life and allows other things to go on as normal, except you have a mask covering your mouth and nose.
India is a unique country, and because of that, it has its own unique challenges regarding Covid-19. The situation hasn’t been great in the country, with it suffering a lot during the pandemic, but as this article discusses, there are ways to improve things for the country. By wearing masks, washing your hands where you can, and using hand-gel, people within India can do their part to reduce the impact of this disease.
Plus, with an acceleration focus on training and hiring nurses and health professionals and getting more people vaccinated, India should be able to get into a position where it can deal with this virus better, regardless of its infrastructure.