Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] Taming The Coronavirus

Public spending on healthcare is vital to contain epidemics. If policy making remains consistent with the for-the-people principle and international cooperation is forthcoming, there is hope for containment of coronavirus, and several other diseases.
By IASToppers
March 03, 2020

Contents

  • Loss due to Epidemic
  • Steps Taken by the authorities
  • Other measures needed to prevent further losses
    • Marketisation of healthcare
    • Public hospitals play an important role
    • International Cooperation
    • Increased Government Funding
    • Conclusion

 

Taming The Coronavirus

For IASToppers’ Editorial Simplified Archive, click here

Loss due to Epidemic

  • The coronavirus outbreak has become a global concern.
  • Globally, around 88,000 cases have been detected, most of which are in China.
  • The death toll is more than 2,870 according to the World Health Organisation.

Steps Taken by the authorities

The central government in China has taken efforts towards combating the virus — this includes the cordon sanitaire (a guarded line preventing anyone from leaving an area infected by a disease and thus spreading it) of Wuhan in the Hubei province where the virus originated. It was a heavy-handed decision as Wuhan is the largest city in central China with a population of nearly 9 million.

Other measures needed to prevent further losses

Marketisation of healthcare

  • Medical reform is a charged issue in most countries.
  • The policy recommendations in favour of marketisation of healthcare normally emphasise three major points:
  • First, bend the curve of the health share in GDP.
  • Second, foster competition to provide more efficient healthcare; and
  • Third, mobilise resources from private entities which will ensure the win-win outcome of reducing government intervention as well as relieving its financial burden.
  • China’s healthcare reform has followed this market economy path.
  • By the end of 2019, there were 34,000 hospitals (12,000 public hospitals and 22,000 private-owned hospitals). In comparison with 2018, the number of public hospitals in the country came down by 181, while private-owned hospitals increased by 1,677.

Public hospitals play an important role

  • The coronavirus outbreak, however, has made it clear that when instant reaction is required, public hospitals hold the key.
  • At present, more than 52 batches of medical staff of 6,097 professionals from around China are working in Wuhan and other places in Hubei. All of them are from public hospitals.
  • The for-the-people principle helps to prevent healthcare from becoming another luxury good that is only availed by certain social groups.
  • In the US, for instance, when the federal government’s gross debt in 2017 exceeded $20 trillion, forcing down the medicare cost curve through government intervention was discussed as an actionable solution.
  • However, the unique role of public healthcare in China’s response to the coronavirus outbreak attests to the fact that only when policymakers care about the for-the-people principle they are willing to sacrifice their fondest policy goals.

International Cooperation

  • There is ample ground to believe that no country, no city, and no region can survive without international cooperation.
  • China has received different kinds of support from across the world. For instance, the medical supplies including face masks, medical gloves, and protective suits donated by India will arrive soon.
  • China, at the same time, has made all-out efforts at home. It has identified the genetic sequence of the virus “in record time and immediately shared the sequence which helps other countries to prepare for the cases”, noted Tedros Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO in a press release on February 12.
  • International cooperation in this hard time gives people hope.
A nurse prepares medicines for patients at Jinyintan Hospital in China’s Wuhan. India has sent a consignment of medical supplies to China to tackle coronavirus outbreak.

Increased Government Funding

  • From a historical perspective, there is enough reason to be optimistic about containing the spread of the disease.
  • Government funding on healthcare in China increased from 658.41 billion RMB in 2003, during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, to nearly 5.8 trillion RMB in 2018, according to China’s national health commission.
  • Its share of GDP increased from 4.9 per cent in 2003 to 6.4 per cent in 2018.

Conclusion

If policy making remains consistent with the for-the-people principle and international cooperation is forthcoming, there is hope for containment of coronavirus, and several other diseases.

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