India must not fall into the same trap as the West

By Cong Ge Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/18 22:48:40

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

As major economies around the world grapple with severe fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic which continues to show no sign of abating, one emerging economy has remained remarkably unscathed: India. 

The world's second-most populous country with 1.3 billion people had reported just over 130 coronavirus cases and three deaths by Tuesday, in stark contrast to exploding numbers of cases around the world and despite its close proximity to massive virus clusters in Asia and a relatively unsophisticated public healthcare system. This is encouraging at a time when thousands of people have died as a result of the virus and hundreds of thousands of lives are potentially at risk. 

However, that doesn't mean India is not facing public health or economic risks, particularly as many governments around the world including those in the US and Europe have appeared to lose their grip on the pandemic and have failed to come up with any sound plan to protect their economies. 

Make no mistake, if the pandemic continues to worsen and the global economy collapses, India will not be spared if no proper precautionary moves are taken. 

Thus far, the Indian government has taken some strict measures, including restricting international travel. On Wednesday, India further expanded its ban on international visitors to include Indian citizens living in Europe. India has drawn ire in the US since it limited exports of essential medical supplies to the US. 

Italy and the US were the first countries to ban flights from China. Their experience has shown - and the World Health Organization has suggested - that restricting global travel and trade does not stop the virus and could instead exacerbate its economic impact. Many comprehensive domestic measures are necessary. 

But even as many around the world are scrambling to avoid the virus, some Indians are reportedly still frequenting bars and other public places, claiming they are not afraid. There has been some research suggesting the virus could spread even in hot and humid weather, meaning the risk is as strong in India as it is around the world, according to media reports.

That means the risk will continue through the summer and if India, one of the largest contributors to global economic growth, plunges into a public health crisis, its already slowing economy could face dire consequences that would deal another major blow to the global economy.

The Indian economy is already expected to slow further this year, and the threat of the coronavirus could add extra pressure. Moody's Investors Service has already lowered India's expected GDP growth for 2020 to 5.3 percent, from its previous forecast of 6.6 percent. 

With major economies around the world in serious trouble, it is imperative that India keeps its people safe and its economy stable. As China has shown, the virus can be beaten. But as many Western countries like the US have shown, the biggest threat is ignorance and unpreparedness. India must be wary of the risks and fully prepared.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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