Coronavirus taskforce members explain why India cannot replicate Singapore and South Korea models to contain the pandemic

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  • India is currently grappling with the shortage of funds, infrastructure and personnel to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic.
  • While Singapore and South Korea are often touted as successful stories in dealing with Coronavirus, experts believe that India cannot replicate those models.
  • Instead, they believe that India needs to work on a strategy by learning from what the West, East and the developing worlds are doing, and then adapting those learnings for India.
Although doctors agree unanimously that the 21-day nationwide lockdown is the only way to control the spread of Coronavirus in India, there has to be a strategy to deal with the inevitable surge in infections. As the government scrambles to chalk out a strategy that works for India, experts tell us why India cannot replicate the Singapore and South Korea models.


Many experts believe that India should evolve its own. “I think what India needs, what India has and what India will do is work on an India strategy. Learn from whatever the West, East and the developing world has to teach and develop a strategy that looks at the ground realities, complexities and diversity of India,” Dr Anupam Sibal, the group medical director of Apollo Hospitals told Business Insider.

Here’s what Singapore and South Korea got right

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Singapore and South Korea are two countries that are often praised for successfully controlling the spread of Coronavirus.

Unlike India and a few other countries that went into a complete lockdown, Singapore allowed its citizens to go about their daily lives by following precautions like using masks and regular health checks. Singapore was also one of the first countries to ban flights from China, effectively shutting down the primary source of infections.

Beyond that, it used aggressive contact tracing and quarantine measures to make sure the spread is under control. South Korea’s fight against Coronavirus is underpinned by its aggressive testing measures. In a country of 51 million people, South Korea tested more than 20,000 people per day, which is more than any other country.

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India’s vast population, diversity and lack of infrastructure are its biggest constraints
Medical personnel at work in the Covid-19 isolation ward at the Nashik Civil hospital on 10th March 2020

On the outset, implementing aggressive quarantine, contact tracing and testing measures seem like good ideas.

However, all of that goes out of the door when India’s problems are considered. Its vast population, diversity, lack of infrastructure and personnel are its biggest constraints. In addition, the government’s failures in terms of coordination and implementation add to the troubles.

In comparison, Singapore and South Korea have fewer issues to deal with. Their cumulative population of 57 million means that they are not as constrained for resources. They also have experience in dealing with pandemics like the SARS outbreak in 2002.

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This makes it difficult for countries like India to implement the models used by Singapore and South Korea.

“We have to understand that we have a set of constraints – in terms of personnel, in terms of capital availability and in terms of infrastructure. Based on all of those different resources, how can we best play our most successful hand and strategize towards this,” Dr Marcus Ranney of Thrive Global told Business Insider.

See also:
Coronavirus cases in India state wise
Flattening the curve: How China, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore brought Coronavirus under control
Whether India will extend its Coronavirus lockdown will be decided by next week, say experts
A look at Indian government response to coronavirus, so far, shows some quick reactions but not enough foresight
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