An Update on India & the Coronavirus: A CASI Webinar

The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Advanced Study of India (CASI) hosted a Zoom webinar on June 22 to discuss India’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in regard to its economy and healthcare system. 

Founded in 1922, CASI is the first research institution in the United States dedicated to the study of contemporary India and is widely known for providing objective knowledge of India’s politics, society, economy and history. Through events like the “An Update on India and the Coronavirus” webinar, CASI provides comprehensive analyses of the most pressing policy issues facing India and the Indo-U.S. relationship today. 

In particular, the “An Update on India and the Coronavirus” webinar featured two panelists: Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, President of the Public Health Foundation of India, and Prof. Devesh Kapur, Starr Foundation South Asia Studies Professor and Asia Programs Director at Johns Hopkins University, CASI Senior Fellow and former CASI Director (2006-2018). The conversation was moderated by Marshall M. Bouton, Acting Director & Visiting Scholar of CASI. 

The webinar began with an overview of the strategies that India has implemented to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. At the onset of the pandemic, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi instated a countrywide lockdown on March 24, which closed most businesses, halted transportation and required all people to stay inside. Kapur noted that India’s economy was already struggling prior to the pandemic, causing the shutdown to exacerbate pre-existing economic wounds. Because of this, Modi lifted the shutdown after two months in order to prioritize nationwide economic recovery. 

However, the panelists said that India had not fully contained the spread of COVID-19 when it began reopening, resulting in a resurgence of cases in June. At the time of the webinar, the panelists noted that India had approximately 430,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 13,00-17,000 deaths associated with the virus, making it the country with the third highest infection rate in the world. 

Reddy also attributed India’s resurgence in confirmed COVID-19 cases to health officials underreporting the number of deaths associated with the pandemic in India. Further, Reddy said that health systems in India’s large metropolitan areas, such as Mumbai and Delhi, were unprepared to handle the virus’ rapid spread. However, he noted that many of India’s towns and small cities have remained relatively untouched by the pandemic. 

Additionally, Reddy said that India’s healthcare system has struggled to attain the equipment, hospital capacity and workforce necessary to address the surge in COVID-19 cases. However, he said that the pandemic has encouraged health workers to improve their contact tracing and telehealth strategies, which will benefit future generations. 

The conversation portion of the webinar concluded with Kapur predicting that India could potentially face a fiscal deficit in the near future due to the economic strains of the pandemic. The panelists ended the webinar by answering questions from audience members. 

For more information about CASI, visit their website here.

 Article written by Tasnim Hasan on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association.