June 18, 2020
The South Asia region has became the latest Covid-19 global hotspot as countries there record soaring infection rates.
Health officials in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are bracing for a possible major catastrophe in the event the pandemic overwhelms their countries’ fragile and underfunded medical system.
Their worries were based on reports of overflowing hospitals turning away suspected patients while mortuaries, cemeteries and crematoriums desperately try to cope with the number of deaths.
So far across the globe, more than eight million people have been infected and over 446,000 have died.
The pandemic is expected to worsen in South Asia as cash-strapped governments choose between enforcing lockdowns or letting poverty further overwhelm their countries.
India, with its large-scale poverty and large migrant community, is now the fourth worst-hit country in the world with more than 354,000 officially confirmed cases and over 11,900 deaths.
Its government, which has started to lift restrictions to ease economic pressure, now faces a surging number of infections and deaths.
Pakistan has so far recorded more than 160,000 cases and over 3,000 deaths.
Despite the grim figures, Prime Minister Imran Khan was hesitant to call for a nationwide lockdown as the country’s economy would be devastated by it.
Many Pakistanis were also found to be reluctant to practice social distancing as evident when provincial lockdowns were relaxed during last month’s Eid al-Fitr holiday, causing the current increase in cases.
Authorities have warned that Pakistan would likely see more than one million cases by next month.
Further complicating the crisis is limited testing, which is skewing data lower.
Conflict-ravaged Afghanistan has only acknowledged more than 26,000 cases and 500 deaths, which was clearly much too low considering that the country has failed to enforce a lockdown due to the ongoing violence.