Friday, June 26, 2020

India, Inequality and the Pandemic

World Health Organization data shows that India's government spent $63 per person on healthcare for its 1.3 billion people in 2016. By comparison, China spent $398 for each of its 1.4 billion people in 2016, according to the WHO.

 176 million people still live on less than $1.90 a day, and experts say the pandemic is shining a spotlight on the country's vast inequalities in everything from employment rights to healthcare.

"Epidemics usually are good mirrors of society and country," said Pratik Chakrabarti, a history of science professor at the University of Manchester, adding that this one "has exposed how precarious people's lives are" in India.

The pandemic has hit India's poor the hardest, from the disease itself to the economic and social impact of a recently lifted nationwide lockdown, said Ramanan Laxminarayan, an epidemiologist and economist who directs the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in Washington.
"The lockdown primarily protected the rich because they could afford to stay home. The poor couldn't so bore the brunt of the disease," he said. "This is just a grossly unfair situation."

The daily rates for coronavirus treatment in India's biggest private hospital chains range from about 25,000 rupees ($333) for a bed in the general ward to 72,000 rupees ($960) for a bed in the ICU with a ventilator. Other private health providers are selling home care packages for people with mild or moderate symptoms that for about $25 a day include twice-daily remote monitoring by a nurse, medicine deliveries and a guaranteed ambulance, should the need arise. For those in need of isolation - say the spouse of a virus patient - the Delhi state government has ordered a slew of hotels to convert rooms for the job. Room prices, which include daily care, cost about 10,000 rupees ($132) a night - again, a sum out of reach for most people.

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