28 March 2020

Spain has resorted to such drastic health care measures to combat the spread of the disease, as situation worsens. Spain, the fourth most Covid-19 affected country after China, Italy and Iran has seen close to 600 deaths and about 14,000 positive cases until now. Though positive cases in India are still in the three digit figures and deaths in single digits, measures taken by other countries, both on ground and on a policy level, can become examples to follow. Spain ruled by a centre-left coalition, has taken an unprecedented measure to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak in its country. It announced that private hospitals and health care providers would be temporarily nationalized to combat the spread of the disease. Health Minister Salvador Illa said private healthcare facilities and materials such as face masks and tests would be requisitioned for coronavirus patients, while companies and suppliers of needed equipment had 48 hours to notify the government. The government even called fourth-year medical students to reinforce health centres and hospital to increase the workforce in health care which is currently under immense pressure.

The spread of the disease has proved to be a challenge to health care systems of many countries. In many cases it has exposed whether a country’s health care system is pro-poor or is it just a profit-making sector. In India, many suspect that since the test are free and each test costs about Rs. 5,000, the government is reluctant on expanding testing beyond people with travel history, local transmission and now for health care workers coming in contact with positive cases. If that is the case then it is just the silence before the storm, one that India is not prepared to handle. While Spain has been lauded for taking over private hospitals, the question about what is being done for social security is still looming. People are out of jobs, daily wage workers are suffering and the economy has taken a hit for most part of the world. In such times, while Spain has taken care of health care, the financial burdens of those who have been forced into isolation continues to worsen and that is one more imperative arena the government needs to look into and act fast.

India, going by data, has the lowest COVID-19 testing figures in the world. India is conducting only about 90 tests a day, despite having the capacity for as many as 8,000. So far, 11,500 people have been tested, according to The Associated Press. As per Indian officials the WHO guidance does not apply in India as the situation is not so severe here. Since India is seemingly a less affected country, it needs to be prepared in case it needs to follow examples of such other countries and keep studying which of these measures are having a positive impact so the same may be replicated here as well, if the need to do so arises. n


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Kabeer Katlat

The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history.