South Asia remains an outlier in infections
Experts call for a study of the reasons for the slower increase in COVID-19 cases in the region
- Not just India but the SAARC region as a whole is seeing a slower increase in novel coronavirus infections, particularly in terms of critical cases.
- While low testing rates are clearly one reason for the low figures, experts are pointing to the need to study the effects of immunity and the strict lockdown and social distancing measures adopted in India and other South Asian countries — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.
- All governments in South Asia have responded rapidly to the crisis, but their task is daunting. Governments have imposed social-distancing measures, introduced relief packages to secure access to food, and provided for delays in payments on taxes, rent, utilities and debt service.
- The study predicted a sharp fall in the economic growth rates of all SAARC countries, even as it recorded much lower infection rates in the region.
- According to the latest figures, the eight SAARC nations account 1.1% approximately of the world total of 22,65,727 COVID-19 cases. In terms of fatalities, the SAARC total is 0.49% or 768 of the total of 155,145 people who died of the infection.
- India has the largest number of cases in the region at 14,651 with Pakistan next at 7,481 while Bhutan has the lowest number with just five cases in the subcontinent.
- The numbers are particularly low when one considers that South Asia accounts for a fifth (21%) of the world’s population, living in dense conditions on 3% of the world’s land mass.
- Experts worldwide have pointed to the low testing rates in the region as a valid reason to question the idea that South Asia has fewer infections.
- The number of positives among tests in Pakistan (9.54%), Bangladesh (10.06%) and Sri Lanka (5.12%), again recording figures much lower than those in Europe and the U.S., although experts point out that as the number of tests increase, the positive percentage might also increase.