SINGAPORE: India remains badly placed to tackle the rapid spread of coronavirus despite several and the unprecedented crisis has highlighted the need to increase investments in healthcare sector, Fitch Solutions said on Friday.
"The continued lack of medical funding and healthcare infrastructure inform our view for the potential epidemic to be worse if it is not adequately contained," it said.
With 8.5 hospital beds per 10,000 population and 8 physicians per 10,000, the country's healthcare sector is not equipped for such a crisis. Moreover, the significant inefficiency, dysfunctioning and acute shortage of the healthcare delivery systems in public sector do not match upwith the growing needs of the population.
In addition, said Fitch, more than 80 per cent of the population still does not have any significant health insurance coverage and about 68 per cent of the population has limited or no access to essential medicines.
The low level of public spending on health is both a cause and an exacerbating factor accounting for the poor quality, limited reach and insufficient public provisioning of healthcare. "Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the critical importance of public sector in health provisioning," said Fitch.
The country of 1.35 billion people has administered 80.9 million vaccine doses until April, the most after the United States and China, but it lags far behind in immunisations per capita.
India, the world's biggest vaccine maker, expanded its inoculation programme to include everyone above the age of 45. But so far it has vaccinated only about one in 25 people compared with nearly one in two in Britain and one in three in the United States.
Fitch said India's soaring virus cases puts its position as a global supplier at risk -- the country has had to hold back vaccine exports in order to maintain domestic supply. The supply issues will significantly affect emerging Asian countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh that fall within the COVAX plan.
India's economy had returned to functioning normally by the second half of 2020. However, over recent weeks, the virus has started spreading rapidly, partly due to complacency on the social distancing measures and mask wearing policies.
With daily COVID-19 cases crossing the grim milestone of 103,558, several hospitals across the country are stretched beyond their capacities in handling the rising burden of the highly infectious disease.
States such as Maharashtra, Delhi, Chennai along with Punjab and Karnataka bearing the maximum load of the pandemic are already falling short of health infrastructure and equipment ranging from oxygen to ventilators.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a review meeting stated that mortality under all circumstances should be avoided by ramping up healthcare infrastructure, availability of oxygen, ventilators besides required logistics, and ensuring that clinical management protocols are followed across all hospitals as well as for those in-home care.
"Concerned over the rising burden of thepandemic, states are now revamping their health infrastructure in order to tackle the rising number of patients," said Fitch.