The global increase in COVID-19 cases in 2021 has primarily been due to an uncontrolled surge in South Asia. It is estimated that by 1 September 2021, approximately 1.4 million in South Asians will die due to COVID-19 alone. The total number of excess deaths will be much higher—including non-COVID causes, as health systems are on the brink of collapse. With 33.4% of South Asians being extremely poor and the large-scale loss of livelihood being reported, the region faces a potentially catastrophic future for the ongoing decade. However, countries in South Asia continue to remain divisive. This differs from other geographic ‘blocs’ that frequently cooperate on mutual interest issues. Tensions in South Asia are shaped by complex domestic, bilateral, intra-regional and international geopolitical factors, despite the region’s obvious geographic, economic and cultural interdependence. A key lesson from the current pandemic is that countries need to share lessons and actively coordinate, complement and supplement each other’s public health responses, especially between neighbours.
Read the Editorial published in BMJ Global Health with Dr Soumyadeep and his colleagues which presents a pragmatic ‘Stronger Together’ agenda on critical areas of concern for political, social, medical and public health leaders in South Asia to consider and build on here (open access)