Viewpoint: How Covid is reshaping systems

16 MAY,2021 | MEDC


 

  • China was the epicentre of the pandemic, but also the first major economy to contain it in a sustainable manner. However, the rest of the world has not been so lucky. India, for example, is now experiencing the second wave of Covid and policymakers are resorting to lockdowns to limit the spread of infections. Even a massive increase in public spending will not be enough to fully compensate for the economic impact of the strict lockdowns. Probably the future of India’s regional role will depend on its ability to successfully lead the fight against Covid in the coming months.
  • Solving the current crisis by providing the population a reliable vaccine is a major step we need to take – and can hopefully do so soon enough. But other long-term measures are equally important. Investing in the socioeconomic determinants of public health – especially education, employment, the local environment, access to fundamental services, and paid sick leave – also has a major impact on health outcomes, and thus the economy. Hopefully, tomorrow’s economy is likely to invest in social infrastructure in a manner that will reduce the prevailing inequities.
  • Research shows that the differential impact of Covid goes beyond infections and also includes collateral secondary damage. Primary amongst them is the economic damage. Covid has further widened the already large gap between the rich and the poor in India. In the time-period since the pandemic was first announced, the most vulnerable citizens have disproportionately missed out on access to education, healthcare, food and nutrition security, and suffered the greatest protection risks. The underlying message is this – lockdowns cannot be a long-term solution as they undermine whatever socioeconomic progress has already been achieved.
  • Covid has also highlighted the necessity of investing in urban infrastructure to create healthier cities, especially in middle and low-income settings, where the quality of housing can be poor and public spaces missing. Density, pollution and noise are the existing factors that add to the stress of any black swan event. Investments in digital technology solutions can help assist the urban poor, who otherwise cannot afford to go to a doctor or are living too far away from a healthcare centre. Addressing underlying health issues like diabetes and obesity matters as they affect immunity and make people more susceptible to infections like Covid.
  • The importance of technology transfer cannot be underestimated. In the current crisis, tapping into the ideas and knowledge of the best minds worldwide can help. For example, in the area of telecommunication, many Asian countries use advanced technology. Their knowhow could be gainfully tapped in a joint effort across industry and academia, to facilitate the testing and tracing of infected people.Government policy could facilitate the reallocation of public resources while giving the private sector leeway to adjust.
  • Covid has taught us that we need to do more than just providing citizens’vaccination – as important as it undoubtedly is. In many parts of the world, the virus is reshaping entire systems of governance. India is not likely to be any different. Wait and watch. 

 

*Photo Credit: Google

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