British economist Jim O’Neill on Wednesday lauded China’s “fast, aggressive” response to contain the coronavirus outbreak and said he was thankful that the pandemic started in China and not India, CNBC reported. While the virus is spreading quickly globally, its progress in China, where it emerged late last year, has slowed in the past seven days.

“Thank God this didn’t start in somewhere like India, because there’s absolutely no way that the quality of Indian governance could move to react in the way that the Chinese have done,” the former Goldman Sachs chief economist said.

O’Neill praised the “Chinese model” to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, and said western countries should emulate it.


Bharatiya Janata Party’s overseas affairs department head Vijay Chauthaiwale criticised his comments and said it shows his “sheer ignorance” towards India’s healthcare system.

“We appreciate the efforts by the Chinese government in response to the coronavirus outbreak,” he said in a statement. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi too has extended all support to China to fight the disease. At the same time, measures taken by the Indian government to prevent the spread of the pandemic in India cannot be overlooked.”

Chauthaiwale urged the economist to re-evaluate Indian healthcare system and the response to tackle the spread of the virus with an “open mind”.

“I strongly deplore the remarks made by you underestimating the proactive efforts and efficiency of Indian government in countering the coronavirus outbreak and evacuating the Indian citizens from the affected areas of the world,” he added.

Indian diplomat Vishwesh Negi also said that O’Neill’s comments were “ill-informed and irresponsible”.

China had on Thursday declared that the peak of the coronavirus outbreak had passed in the country after new cases in Hubei fell to single digits for the first time. Around two-thirds of global cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in China’s central Hubei province, where the virus first emerged in December. But in recent weeks the vast majority of new cases have been outside China.

Authorities in China credited strict measures they have taken, including placing Hubei under near total lockdown, with preventing big outbreaks in other cities, and had also said other countries should learn from their efforts.

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had urged people not to panic and instead focus on taking precautions to combat the novel coronavirus. He also announced that none of his ministers will travel outside the country as a step to contain the spread of the pandemic. Meanwhile, all cinema halls in Delhi and schools and colleges not conducting examinations will be shut till March 31.

On Wednesday, the government had suspended the vast majority of visas to the country in a wide-reaching attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus, as cases across the region continued to rise.

India recorded its first coronavirus death late on Thursday after samples of a 76-year-old man, who was a suspected COVID-19 patient and passed away on March 10, tested positive for the disease. So far, the health ministry has confirmed 74 cases in the country.