No-one will dispute the fact that this novel strain of the coronavirus is spreading fast. The daily stats are alarming.
The media seems, understandably, fixated on the bad news – how many infected, how many deaths. But, there is more to COVID-19 than just that. As with most other diseases, more people seem to be recovering than are succumbing. According to the John Hopkins Coronavirus Research Centre, of the roughly 134,700 confirmed cases worldwide at that time, 69,642 people are now healthy again. That is 51% of the total.
The majority of people who get infected experience only mild symptoms. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.”
Less than 14% went to hospital
And according to the data site, information is beautiful, only 13.8% of people who have picked up this virus need to be hospitalised. This site was founded by David McCandless, author of two bestselling infographics books. It uses only facts and data to create its graphics.
Various news outlets have also reported that the spread has slowed down significantly in China, ground zero for COVID-19. “Wuhan City reported five new cases on Friday. (This is) the second day in a row the tally has been less than ten,” writes Reuters.
They add that no locally transmitted infections were reported in the rest of the country either. “It is the first time that fewer than ten cases have been reported since the authority began releasing such figures in January,” reports NHK World-Japan. And although this pandemic is easing in China, it is flying through the rest of the world.
In the Netherlands, the Dutch Health Department (RIVM) figures now stand at 804. The WHO says in Europe, this tally was 29, 049 late last night. Dutch people, however, seem to be heeding Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s call to stay home. The ANWB, the Dutch traffic site, has reported that there is hardly any traffic on the country’s roads. This situation is expected to continue. Especially in Noord Brabant. Train and train stations are practically empty. There will, however, be fewer trains.
This is all good news in terms of curbing the spread of this pandemic. Although a lot of people do not get seriously ill, some groups are at a much higher risk of contracting this virus. Information from China shows death rates are much higher than the average for certain groups of people. These are those above the age of 60. People with high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, and other chronic conditions are more at risk too.
The elderly most at risk
In one large study by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, for people above the age of 70, the death rate ranges from eight to 14.8%. For people with cardiovascular disease, this rate was 10.5% and 7.3% for diabetics. These rates compared with a 2.3% mortality rate in the overall population of, the then, 44,672 patients studied until 11 February.
That might explain, in part, why the death rate is so high in Italy. According to the Worldometers.info, in that country, more than 15 100 people have been infected with 1,016 deaths. A local Italian media outlet writes that Italian authorities are quick to point out that people who have died in that country so far have had an average age of 81, many of them with pre-existing health conditions. Italy has the oldest population in Europe, with about 23% of residents being 65 or older, according to The New York Times.
It is up to the young and healthy among us – only 0,4% of those up to the age of 40 who contract this disease die – to protect this vulnerable group. Keep washing your hands, sneezing into the crook of your arm, staying home, and following any other official instructions.