India now has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases, with 4.2 million cases, overtaking Brazil after reporting 90,000 new cases yesterday.
While the United States is still well ahead of the rest of the world with 6,276,835 confirmed cases, India overtook Brazil’s 4,137,521 cases overnight, with the 90,802 cases recorded yesterday, taking its tally to 4,204,613, according to Johns Hopkins University. However, what will be of particular concern for the South Asian nation is that their daily case load is the worst in the world and increasing exponentially.In fact, having lifted lockdown restrictions in an effort to boost their economy, which has lost millions of jobs since COVID-19 hit in March, India has now recorded an average of 75,000 news cases per day over the last week.
Perhaps the greatest concern for India is that it has a population of 1.3 billion people, packed at 500 people per square kilometre (according to 2011 estimates). In comparison, the global average is 57.89 people per square kilometre. The United States’ figure is 34 per square kilometre. Furthermore, India’s income per capita (PPP) estimate for 2019 was $9,027, according to the IMF, which ranks at 118th in the world.
A country with a massive, tightly-packed population, and many people living in informal housing and in a state of destitution, provides a hotbed for the spread of disease and particularly contact, airborne disease like COVID-19. India is a recipe for disaster in the COVID-19 pandemic, and things look like they could get a lot worse before they get any better.
Furthermore, India’s healthcare system is problematic, and 75% of total healthcare expenditure is made up of out-of-pocket payments. The WHO estimated their 2014 healthcare expenditure as a percentage of GDP to be a miserly 4.69%. As a result, 2017 figures released in a 2020 Princeton University study show India to have 0.53 hospital beds per 1000 people, the lowest figure on record. The study also found that there were just 47,481 ventilators throughout the country, and it did not publish figures for the number of ICU beds in the country.
The sad reality is that India is a country in trouble in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak. As the second most populous country in the world, which is incredibly densely populated, has high levels of poverty and a healthcare system that is not equipped to handle the influx of patients, India appears to be on course to overtake the US as the worst affected country and there’s no telling how long it will take to overcome the devastation of COVID-19.