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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Some nations have won against Covid-19, can India learn from them?

The coronavirus pandemic caught the world unaware and changed it for ever. We all have been battling the pathogen, which is actually 125 nanometre in length under a microscope, for months now! Some nations have won against Covid-19. Can India learn from them?

New Zealand, Germany, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Australia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China have won against Covid-19. But how did they do it?

Here are some factors behind their battle against coronavirus

Public awareness

Making people aware about the coronavirus and its potential to cause damage to our health and economy was the first and foremost important thing to win against it. The disease is new. A possible vaccine is at least a year away. So making people aware was important. That’s what countries like Germany, Denmark, Norway and New Zealand did effectively.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the nation on TV for the first time since she assumed office. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern laid out her clear and meticulous plans during her media and public addresses. Norway prime minister Erna Solberg held a programme only for children to address their queries/concerns about the virus’s impact on their lives and that of others. She told them, “It’s okay to be scared”. Have you ever heard a politician being this humane in public? Countries like Denmark and Finland took to social media to raise awareness.

But illiteracy, poverty, overpopulation and broad socio-economic disparity hampered India’s awareness measures. Since a majority of the population don’t trust the government, they behaved the way they thought best to protect themselves. And ignored necessary guidelines.

Quick government action

The governments of these countries jumped into action immediately they got the alert. They didn’t linger on the stages of denial, anger, anticipation or even China-bashing. They started quick testing, contact tracing, quarantine, ceasing domestic and international travel and upgrading healthcare facilities. Taiwan has been hailed by CNN for “world’s best response” against Covid-19. Its president Tsai Ing-wen not only kept the pandemic well under control but also faced China breathing down its neck amid the crisis quite bravely. Go woman!

India did go for an early lockdown but didn’t hasten its widespread testing. Also, India’s first Covid-19 case was reported in January end but till mid March the country allowed international flights. This certainly went against us.

Clear strategies & effective implementation

It’s easy to implement plans and policies during an emergency when leaders are clear and confident about their strategies and people educated. New Zealand was prompt in sealing its borders and going for early lockdown. So were Denmark, Norway and Iceland. World’s youngest prime minister Sanna Marin of Finland who was elected in December 2019 dealt with Covid-19 with much gusto in such short period. She took the help of social media influencers to raise awareness about the pandemic. Iceland prime minister Katrin Jakobsdottir led from the front. She arranged for free testing for the entire Icelandic population in collaboration with deCODE Genetics, a subsidiary of US biotech firm Amgen.

South Korea went for aggressive testing and contact tracing. It already has tested as many as five times its total population. The thorough testing method was so powerful that South Korea didn’t have to shut its schools and businesses. Germany also started quick and widespread testing soon after Merkel told the nation, “It’s serious. Take it seriously”. Similarly, Denmark and Iceland were quick in implementing their strategies.

To be honest, the Indian government started focusing on the health sector only after the Covid-19 outbreak! Till then, we were busy spending for temples, statues, surgical strikes, Namaste Trump and so on…  Isn’t it?

Apolitical approach

Collective efforts by all political parties played a big role in these countries that defeated the Covid-19 crisis. Instead of criticizing the ruling or the Opposition, all political parties joined hands to face the challenges together. Countries like Norway, Belgium, New Zealand, Iceland and Germany underscored the importance of united efforts. Sounds almost impossible for our Indian political scenario, right?

In India, we always see rulers and Opposition fight over any issue, Covid-19 is no exception for our political leaders. In most cases, states and Centre fight over their opposite ideologies in dealing with a particular crisis. States with non-BJP leaderships follow their own rules, and often ignore even the Supreme Court’s guidelines!

People’s support in Covid-19 crisis

People’s trust in their government is another important weapon to fight a pandemic like this. If people have faith in their government, they will listen to their leaders and cooperate with them. For people are aware already, they will play along the government. Unlike these countries, a vast majority of the Indian population doesn’t have faith in the government or in its decisions. Complex socio-political situations are responsible for people’s mistrust in the rulers.

However, Indians so far have showed tremendous courage and patience in making the world’s longest lockdown successful to a fair extent. They even sacrificed their own lives, jobs and faced brutal pay cuts!

Where India could have done better?

  • Lockdown for first 30 days could have been strictly monitored by the army to ensure no leakage.
  • All domestic and international flights operated till March last week. That became quite costly for us in terms of virus spread.
  • No ping pong ball like playing with migrants. Rather, the Centre should have asked them to stay where they are and ensure their food/ration.
  • The Centre should have announced work insurance policy for migrants to mitigate their job worry and prevent their surge to return to homeland immediately.
  • Direct cash benefit to the poor and lower income group people was necessary since they keep the economy running.
  • The Centre and the states could have collaborated better than fighting like they do usually.
  • All parties should have come together irrespective of their political hues and ideologies in the battle against coronavirus.
  • Acquiring more PPE and medical equipment was important than showering flower petals on health workers from copters.

Gender makes the difference in Covid-19 crisis?

Well, we don’t know for sure. But the reality says it did make a difference! Finland, Denmark, Norway, Taiwan, Iceland, Germany and New Zealand that performed brilliantly against Covid-19 are run by women.

 

Some argue that their confident approach towards the crisis, calm attitude, perseverance and affectionate appeal to people worked like magic. Mr Trump, Mr Bolsonaro, Mr Duterte and our very own Mr Modi, are you guys listening?

 

 

 

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