Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that India was able to tackle Covid-19 far better than experts around the world had believed it could because of the timely country-wide lockdown, which gave it time to ramp up its health system significantly. The epidemic also taught India, he added, to be “self-reliant”.
“With timely lockdown India successfully protected the lives of thousands and lakhs of its citizens,” the prime minister said in a video address streamed live to a virtual annual meeting of the American Association of Physicians of Indian origin. “Contrary,” he had said earlier, “to fears expressed by experts around the world that India could be in deep crisis.”
PM Modi said that Covid-19 fatalities were less than 12 for every 1 million people in India – “not even 12”, he repeated to emphasise the low number – compared, in his telling, to more than 350 in the United States and more than 600 for the UK, Spain and Italy. The United States leads the world in both the death toll and infections with over 1,25,000 and 2.4 respectively, and they are both growing.
“If India today has been able to fight the coronavirus (he used the shorter form “corona”) so much better,” the prime minister said, adding, “the lockdown played a very big role in it.” He spoke mostly in Hindi.
While fighting the pandemic, India used the time period of the lockdown to “ramp up” its healthcare system, he said. It was able to expand the number of hospital beds for special Covid-19 treatment and isolation chamber, grow the number of labs to test coronavirus infections from one to more than 1,000, the prime minister said detailing the outcomes. He added that till three months ago, India was a net importer of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), testing kits and even N-95 masks. Today, India produces four millions PPEs a week and three million N-95s.
“We used to import earlier, and now we are moving towards exporting them,” he said.
Even ventilators, which are needed for severely ill and hospitalised patients, were mostly imported earlier, whereas 50,000 of those made in India are in the process of being deployed.
“It’s said that every crisis teaches us something or the other,” Modi said, adding, “corona has taught India to be self-reliant.” And this will help further strengthen the healthcare system.
The prime minister went on to give a detailed account of his government’s approach on health and initiatives such as on eradication of tuberculosis (TB) and mitigation of Kala-azar (Black Fever, also called visceral leishmaniasis).
“Our pehchan (identity),” he said, “is linked to manawta (humanity) not money.”
As the Covid-19 epidemic spread around the world, India supplied medicines and medical equipment to more than 150 countries and provided training to personnel of 16 countries, he said, adding, India sent hydroxychloroquine to many counties “including America”.
India was now working with many countries on finding a vaccine for Covid-19.