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The Impact of the Coronavirus on Asian Countries

April 14, 2020

Karl Jackson, C.V. Starr Distinguished Professor of Southeast Asia Studies
Devesh Kapur, Starr Foundation Professor of South Asian Studies and Director of Asia Programs
Andrew Mertha, George and Sadie Hyman Professor of China Studies and Director of the China Studies Program
James Person, Senior Faculty Lead and Lecturer of Korea Studies
Joshua White, Associate Professor of the Practice of South Asia Studies and Fellow, Edwin O. Reischauer Centre for East Asia Studies
Moderated by Carla P. Freeman, Associate Research Professor of China studies and Executive Director of the Johns Hopkins SAIS Foreign Policy Institute
With 4.6 billion people, accounting for about 60 percent of the world's population, Asia has been a critical battleground in the fight against the coronavirus. Johns Hopkins SAIS experts joined a webinar to discuss the impact of the pandemic on some of the principal countries in the region and how they have responded.
Jackson began the discussion with remarks on how the coronavirus has impacted Indonesia. He noted that Indonesia’s modest GDP per capita, with less than 3,000 hospitals, 4 doctors and 12 hospitals beds for every 1,0000 people forecasts a substantial mortality rate.

Kapur shared remarks on the situation in India. He noted that the number of coronavirus cases reported have been low, but also underestimated, given that India has carried out very few tests per capita. However, the country’s drastic lockdown has been significant in preventing further spread of the virus.

Mertha discussed China’s response to the pandemic within its borders. He noted that most recently there has been a reinstitution of neighbourhood committees to handle movement within China and the use of technologies and data gathering to track the virus. He also weighed in on the economic fallout China has experienced as a result of the pandemic, noting that the situation is precarious with governments pushing companies to leave China and Belt and Road Initiative projects slowing down.

Professor James Person introduced the impact of the coronavirus on South Korea by showcasing how despite being initially the second worst hit country after China the country managed to flatten the curve. Drawing on lessons from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak, South Korea was proactive by inviting private companies to mass produce tests, enabling hundreds of thousands of people to be tested. The country however also undertook invasive steps such as going through a robust process of contact tracing if someone tests positive.

Professor Joshua White offered insights on the situation in Pakistan, highlighting economic and civil-military challenges the country has faced as a result of the pandemic. He also noted that while many powers including health and education have been devolved to the provinces, the country is trying to learn new patterns of federalist interaction in the midst of this crisis.