India needs to respond to China’s offer of help as soon as possible


A policeman stands guard at a roadblock during the first day of a 21-day government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in New Delhi on March 25, 2020. – India’s billion-plus population went into a three-week lockdown on March 25, with a third of the world now under orders to stay indoors, as the coronavirus pandemic forced Japan to postpone the Olympics until next year. (Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP)

Global Times (30 March 2020) -The Indian government will soon buy personal protective equipment and ventilators from China, The Economic Times reported on Monday. The latest move shows that despite its 21-day national lockdown and border controls, the South Asian country still needs to strengthen coordination with China on medical supplies crucial to the battle against the coronavirus.

It seems that India has thus far managed to largely avoid the coronavirus pandemic, with just 1,190 cases reported as of 3 pm on Monday – far fewer than China, the US and many European countries. That means that India still has time to prepare before its outbreak overwhelms an already fragile health system. Whether or not India can make good use of this window of opportunity will determine its ability to effectively stop the spread of the virus.

Observers have generally pointed out that the country’s current lockdown may slow the virus but is unlikely to stop it. There are also fears that the number of cases has been underestimated due to selective testing. By Sunday, India had tested 35,000 people, according to data from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which is very low compared to its population.

Moreover, even based on an optimistic ICMR estimate that the lockdown could substantially reduce new infections, a surge in the number of patients that need to be hospitalized is inevitable. Risks are particularly evident given that social distancing is almost impossible in crowded slums.

As the world’s past experiences with infectious diseases have shown, coordinated global efforts are needed. The same is true of India at this juncture. With the country’s huge population and stretched medical system, it is unrealistic that India alone can prepare abundant medical resources to meet its potential need in the short term.

It is time for India to step up its coordination and cooperation with China on combating the virus.

Countries around the world are building temporary hospitals to fight the pandemic, and India is no exception. The Indian government is reportedly considering converting train coaches into makeshift hospitals. While China and certain Chinese companies stand ready to offer help in this regard, India has not yet responded to China’s offers. If the country needs help building temporary hospitals, consensus needs to be reached between the two sides as soon as possible.

Coordination on the fast-tracking of customs procedures and logistics arrangements is also needed for the transportation of Chinese medical supplies to India. With so many tasks that need to be completed before the outbreak hits its peak, India must act hastily.

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