burki30_AAMIR QURESHIAFP via Getty Images_pakistanmosquecoronavirus Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

A Tale of Two COVID-19 Responses

Whereas India emulated China, which contained COVID-19 rather quickly, and is paying a high economic price, Pakistan followed the lead of the US. Pakistan's economy was spared the worst, but the country now has the highest infection rate in South Asia.

KARACHI – By the time COVID-19 reached South Asia, it had already penetrated most other regions of the world. Pakistan was one of the first in the region to be hit. In late February, Shia pilgrims who had come in contact with Chinese pilgrims while visiting holy sites in Iran brought it home with them. Not long after, Indian expatriates visiting from the United States carried the virus to India. Yet the responses of two governments were very different.

Both countries took lessons from others’ approaches. For India, that meant implementing a sudden Chinese-style blanket lockdown on its 1.3 billion residents, after the number of confirmed cases reached 500. Pakistan, by contrast, took its cue from the United States, where President Donald Trump’s administration, always eager to shirk responsibility, left the response largely up to state governors and mayors of major cities.

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the nationwide lockdown on March 24, he sounded confident. The measures, which would take effect just four hours after the announcement, were supposed to “break the chain of infection.” India, he declared, “would emerge victorious.”

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