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Coronavirus: World Bank Announces $1 Billion Emergency Financial Aid For India The aid will support better screening, contact tracing, and laboratory diagnostics and help in procuring personal protective equipment as well as setting up new isolation wards.

By Debroop Roy

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The World Bank has launched its first set of emergency operations in response to the coronavirus disease outbreak across the world, which will provide $1.9 billion to assist 25 countries. Among the initially approved projects include $1 billion to India, that will support better screening, contact tracing, and laboratory diagnostics and help in procuring personal protective equipment and setting up new isolation wards.

"We are working to strengthen developing nations' ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and shorten the time to economic and social recovery. The poorest and most vulnerable countries will likely be hit the hardest, and our teams around the world remain focused on country-level and regional solutions to address the ongoing crisis," said World Bank Group President David Malpass, in a statement.

The Indian government last week enforced a strict 21-day countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of the pandemic that has now claimed more than 53,000 lives globally. In India, the number of people have tested positive with the virus has crossed 2,300 and the death toll is over 50.

Financial aid also comes at a time when there are fears that India's healthcare system is ill-equipped to handle if the cases cross a certain threshold.

According to a modelling by the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, 48,000,00 will need hospitalization across 30 states and UTs if 5 per cent of the population contracts the virus. The number is nearly five times more than the total hospital beds in the country, essentially meaning that if merely one per cent of the population gets infected, India would run out of beds.

Others Pitch In

To deal with inadequacies in the healthcare system, private players and even state-run Indian Railways have pitched in to help. According to the train operator, it would turn 20,000 coaches into isolation wards for patients, which will be able to accommodate up to 3,20,000 beds.

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance, apart from donating to the PM Cares Fund and other activities to help the poor, has set up a 100-bed Coronavirus-dedicated centre in collaboration with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation at Seven Hills Hospital in Mumbai.

Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra Group, has previously said that Mahindra and Mahindra would start working on ventilators, which are said to be in short supply.

High net-worth individuals such as Ratan Tata and Azim Premji have come up with timely donations worth thousands of crores as well.

On the consumer front, fast moving consumer goods companies such as Hindustan Unilever, ITC and Dabur have all reduced the prices of sanitizers, which have seen demand surging since before the lockdown, while several start-ups too have come up with several initiatives to help the government and the people.

Debroop Roy

Former Correspondent

Covering the start-up ecosystem in and around Bangalore. Formerly an energy reporter at Reuters. A film, cricket buff who also writes fiction on weekends.
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