MORE FOCUS IS NEEDED FOR INCREASED PRODUCTION OF DRUG MATERIALS
Fear has gripped the world with the spread of novel Coronavirus infecting thousands of people and sending many of them to death. The fear is real and natural and is the outcome of the fact no effective medicine has been developed to cure the disease. Only option left is to protect oneself from contamination by novel Coronavirus otherwise called COVID-19. The use of masks, avoiding physical contacts like handshake, washing hands with sanitizer, focusing on cleanliness, keeping distance from people having cough and cold and fever and from pets have become the order of the day. Many public events and visas to foreigners are cancelled. Cinema halls and malls are closed in many cities to avoid public gathering.
As the accurate symptoms of the disease have not been ascertained so far every abnormal behaviour or fever are doubted with suspicion and the number of suspected cases have risen. Efforts are made to isolate and quarantine them. These cases are treated till the patient recovers to normal behaviour.
The impact of COVID-19 is real. It is a new virus and the scientists are yet to develop medicine for the cure of the disease. But fact remains – there is a need for every individual to increase immunity in the body so that adequate resistance is developed to counter the invasion of any virus. This calls for appropriate food and nutrition and change in lifestyle. Doctors should also select and recommend medicine that increases the immunity in the body. The spread of COVID-19 should be a wakeup call for the future. There is an urgent need to upgrade health infrastructure in primary and tertiary levels.
After the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the spread as pandemic, the fear of the fallout has increased manifold. The virus has spread to over 60 countries with 134,918 suspected cases including 696 on board the Diamond Princess ship and death toll of 4,989 so far. In India, according to the ministry of health and family welfare, there are 81 active cases, out of which only three have recovered and one reported dead in Karnataka. The situation in China, Italy and Iran remains serious. Also people in US, Germany, Spain and France are suspected to be infected by the virus in thousands.
In December 2019 the outbreak of Coronavirus was first reported in the central China city of Wuhan. The cause of the outbreak and the actual number of dead and infected people are not known. China has resorted to the burning of the dead with a view to contain the spread of virus.
However, incidentally 38 years ago American novelist Dean Koontz in The Eye of Darkness Has mentioned Wuhan-400 virus as bio-weapon developed at RDNA labs outside the city. It was the four-hundredth viable strain of man-made microorganism developed at the research centre. The virus cannot survive outside living human body for longer than a minute. In the corpse the virus perishes when the temperature falls below 86 degree Fahrenheit. A novel is a fiction. But when it became a matter of debate in the public domain China has accused US Army “brought the epidemic to Wuhan” and demanded “an explanation”. Trading of charges may continue but of no avail until the fact comes to light.
The fact remains that China is the epicentre of the outbreak of Coronavirus since December 2019. The virus spread to other parts of the globe through travel and contacts. India inherited the virus from people coming from outside. The people of those states who travel to and fro abroad for business and jobs are suspected to be infected by the virus. Only states like Madhya Pradesh , Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal and the north-eastern part of the country escaped the wrath of Coronavirus.
The world has become protectionist than ever before. Global trade in goods and services has shrunk and many countries are likely to experience an economic slowdown. In India the tourism and hospitality are largely affected. The remittances that India have been receiving from its citizens working abroad will mark a dip as many of them have been evacuated.
According to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) the services sector, passenger air travel, container shipping are severely affected. According to the data released by WTO in March, this year shows an already declining trend. An approximate measure of the volume of world services trade shows that year-on-year growth in services trade activity already fell from 4.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2019 to 2.8 per cent in the third quarter.
Apart from a dip in remittances, India is likely to experience a fall in exports of goods and services. It will also suffer a fall in production particularly in micro, small and medium sized industries leading to consequent rise in prices.
As China is a part of global value chain, Indian economy is very much dependant on China. The pharmaceutical and chemical industry sources API and intermediates from China at cheaper rates. Imports from Europe are costlier. Also India depends upon imports of mobile phone components, electronic goods from China, US, Korea and Japan. Watch manufacturers are unable to source components from abroad. The production in many micro, small and medium sized industries has fallen as they source raw materials and components from abroad. The textile industry is dependant on Chinese imports of some raw materials. The already ailing auto parts industry also depends upon Chinese imports. Marble industry is dependant on imports from Italy
There are good reasons for boycotting food items from China. But why should it be the case of other goods which can be screened and sanitized at the point of entry? Of course there is another angle. How much can China supply goods and raw materials when it is afflicted by the outbreak of Coronavirus and there is a reduction in labour force?
The global pandemic of Coronavirus is, therefore, a wakeup call for India to upgrade its health infrastructure, promote immunity in individuals through nutritious foods and medicines, facilitate and encourage production of raw materials that are imported. This would make Make in India programme a reality. Exporters need to find new markets and importers also should think of sourcing from new and alternate markets abroad.