A Comparative Study of the Novel Coronavirus in US, Brazil and India

State Public Health Laboratory in Exton Tests for COVID19
Credit: governortomwolf / CC BY

With more than 60,000 cases being reported every day for the last four days, India’s COVID-19 cases have more than doubled in the last 24 days. The states with the highest number of cases are Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. While the recovery rate witnessed an increase, ‘Unlock 3.0’ might also cause a sudden rise in cases across the country. 

Brazil: Effects of undermining COVID-19

The second most affected country in the world, Brazil, has recorded over 2 million cases since March and more than 103,099 deaths. The Amazonas region was the first state to have been at the receiving end of Brazil’s first wave and soon, the disease began to spread to other major cities such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. In fact, in May, São Paulo’s mayor alerted the country that his city’s under-funded health system was on the verge of collapse due to it becoming the newest hotspot for the disease. He also said that, as a result of this, the demand for beds had exponentially increased. “We are nearing the most difficult time. Our intensive care beds are at 90 percent capacity and the regular hospital beds are at 76 percent capacity,” said the mayor. 

Despite cases rising rapidly and the death toll increasing every day, Brazil did not impose a nation-wide lockdown. Although different cities and states adopted their own countermeasures to the disease, these were met with strong protests by citizens. Moreover, data collected from the country later showed that the compliance to the individual countermeasures taken by Brazil’s cities and states reduced over time. This meant that many of the cities and states were functioning as usual, with very few restrictions in place. This was a clear invitation for the disease to spread the way it did in the South American country. 

With its own President, Jair Bolsonaro, undermining the disease by calling it “little flu” and accusing the media of spreading paranoia and panic, Brazilians had no choice but to function as usual – with a pandemic at large. It turns out that the media was right in creating awareness about the disease, as Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for COVID-19 in early July. 

Brazil became only the second country in the world to cross 1 million cases and experts predict that the number will only increase. With rising cases and the Brazilian government refusing to impose stricter lockdown measures, citizens have been extensively purchasing and using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits every time they step out into the city. 

Many of Brazil’s citizens, however, still have hope. With two major vaccine tests being conducted in partnership with the pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Sinovac, there is hope that a breakthrough vaccine can restrict the spread of the pandemic in Brazil. With these companies beginning their final round of testing soon, Brazil can only wish for a vaccine that is effective and affordable. 

US: The Scary Spread of COVID-19

The U.S. recorded 5 million Covid-19 cases on Aug. 09, making it the worst hit country in the world. Health officials believe that this is not even the actual number. They estimate that the real count might be 10 times higher, owing to testing limitations and the fact that 40 percent of those infected are asymptomatic. 

Many blame U.S.’s current situation on the rather indifferent response of the U.S. government to the pandemic. Others believe that the pandemic and US’s response to it has exposed its “fragility.” Massimo Franco, a columnist with the daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, said, “We Italians always saw America as a model. But with this virus we’ve discovered a country that is very fragile, with bad infrastructure and a public health system that is non-existent.”

While daily cases have reduced from 70,000 to 54,000, cases are continuing to rise in close to 20 states. The deaths in many of them are rising, too. Keeping aside the U.S. government’s placid response to the pandemic and its effect on their country, the American public – and the rest of the world – are in dire need for a solution to the disease.

While the bane in many countries is that COVID-19 testing is very low, U.S. President Donald Trump has said that the U.S. is at the top position where testing for the disease is concerned. Claiming that no other country is close to this figure, he says that if at all, India could be at the second position regarding this. “We have tested close to 65 million people and no country is even close to that number. India would be second at 11 million (tests) and they have 1.5 billion people. We have the number one testing in the world by far and the highest quality tests,” said Mr. Trump. 

Some say that U.S. has borne the brunt of not imposing strict lockdown measures. With internal debates continuing, the U.S. people need a sense of security and certainty. As the world’s largest economy facing what might be a downturn, the U.S. government will have to eke out a way to restrict the spread of the disease before a vaccine arrives. 

India: A Fluctuating Case for COVID-19

Currently, India has over 2,360,358 COVID-19 cases and more than 46,536 deaths, making it the third worst affected country in the world. Although the absolute number of COVID-19 infections in India increased in this past week, the daily growth rate of the cases has been in decline. The growth rate in most of the Indian states, even those that were witnessing a fast rise in cases, have been decreasing according to data collected over the last few days. 

The recent decline in growth rates is not a new phenomenon. Growth rates have been fluctuating periodically, making it even more difficult for experts to ascertain the nature of the disease. India’s current 3.25 percent growth rate of the total number of national cases, however, is the lowest since May 01. Moreover, the doubling time for cases, which is essentially a function of growth rate, has increased to more than 22 days. Since mid-June, the doubling time of cases has been over 20 days, except for certain brief periods. On Aug. 03, India recorded a little over 52,000 new cases – the lowest number of cases per day – in the last six days. 

While it took the U.S. three months – since the detection of its first case  to cross 1 million cases, it took Brazil four  months. India, on the other hand, took four months to cross half a million cases, but the number doubled in less than three weeks. Among the three, U.S. records the highest deaths per million of the population, while India records the lowest. 

The flattening of graphs in terms of the number of cases recorded is as varied for the three countries as the rest of the data. While US – and the rest of the world – witnessed a fall in the number of cases by June 25, Brazil and India saw a rise in cases recorded. India also had the lowest cases per million compared to US and Brazil. This could, however, have to do with the testing of the population for COVID-19 in each of the countries. Sure enough, India has conducted the lowest tests per thousand, not just among US and Brazil, but all the countries that have been majorly impacted by COVID-19. Although India might be witnessing sporadic decline in cases, it remains the third most affected country in the world.

While it is true that each country has different demographics and thus should not be compared, there are certain common factors that can be used to contrast one with the other. Each country has lessons which it can take from another country’s measures against the pandemic and the faster countries do this, the more lives can possibly be saved.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

Ananya Koppikar Moorthy is an intern at Observer Research Foundation, Mumbai.