Aman Gupta, Co-founder and Managing Partner, SPAG
If you believe that Italy’s mistakes in tackling the COVID-19 outbreak are a guide on how countries should move forward with their action response plans against the spread of the deadly virus, you might be too optimistic.
Despite examples at hand, it took over two weeks for world leaders to take comprehensive action to curb the spread of the coronavirus after the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11. It is only now when the number of cases globally has crossed 500,000 that countries are seen slowly receding into a lockdown.
The world is looking up to its policymakers for solutions now more than ever. However, despite the emphasis on social distancing being the only immediate way of tackling this pandemic, some countries especially in the American continents haven’t fully acknowledged the crisis at hand. Worryingly, this has resulted in a systemic global inconsistency of action thus far fueled by self-centered policies of nations.
A global health crisis like COVID-19 goes beyond borders and brings into focus the necessity of a unanimous global front. In a short span of time the virus has spread rapidly through the world and with each passing day, the pandemic lays bare the inadequacies of healthcare systems and crisis unpreparedness across the globe. Moreover, the existing introversion of ideologies to tackle healthcare crisis and public health emergencies has led to an unsynchronised response of countries in tackling the crisis.
There has not only been a delay in action response, but also a failure in delivery of productive action. This has made it extremely difficult for countries to – at this stage – flatten the curve. The need of the hour, considering the current era of populist inward-looking ideologies, is to revamp our crisis management strategies and look outward to avoid a situation where the internal machinery reaches the edge of a collapse.
India was recently applauded by the WHO for taking comprehensive measures to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. However, healthcare in India is an ignored industry with less than 3% of the GDP allocated to healthcare. Without adequate resources it is difficult to know the extent of spread of the virus. Until a week ago, India had only 52 official testing centres for COVID-19 across the world. For a population of 1.3 billion, that number falls way off the mark. We are at a point where the nation is entirely dependent on internal policies to drive the health market.
On the other hand, a coordinated global lockdown could have avoided panic and given countries time to strengthen healthcare systems. Recently, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi roped in SAARC leaders to develop a strategy to deal with the growing COVID-19 pandemic. Taking a cue from that, steps need to be taken at the stakeholder level to develop more inclusive strategies for when crisis hits. East-West collaboration lies at the core of this strategy.
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that we need to initiate an active united response where world bodies come together to develop long-lasting policies which can be played out during public health emergencies. It has become imperative to incorporate globalisation in policy narratives and work actively towards providing comprehensive solutions to world problems.
One way to move forward in this regard is for policymakers to think globally and act locally. We live in a world with extensive cross-country interaction and movement. It is essential now to be aware of possible health threats that might require a coordinated policy narrative to deal with. Countries should focus on policymaking at a local level while integrating and aligning these policies at a globalised macro level.