85% Covid-19 deaths in 45-plus age bracket: Govt data
Patients over the age of 45 years, who form 25% of the country’s population, account for 85% of India’s Covid-19 deaths, the Union health ministry said on Thursday as it asserted that the country has been able to manage the outbreak “relatively well” with cases and deaths per million of the population here among the lowest in the world.
The findings about the age-wise distribution of deaths due to the coronavirus disease in India are in line with what scientists have observed about the global trends of the disease — it is disproportionally fatal for those who are older. Officials, however, did not release any data about breakup of cases based on gender and comorbidities.
Senior government officials, during the first Covid-19 press briefing by the health ministry in nearly a month, also reiterated that India has not yet reached the community transmission stage and said that there have only been “localised outbreaks in some geographical areas”.
“There may be some localised pockets where transmission is high but as a country, there is no community transmission in India,” Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said separately on Thursday after chairing 18th meeting of group of ministers on Covid-19.
The health ministry press briefing came a day after India saw the largest single-day spike in Covid-19 cases with 25,724 new infections on Wednesday, the first time more than 25,000 new cases were reported in 24 hours. As of Thursday night, 794,117 confirmed cases of Covid-19 had been detected in the country and 21,577 people had died, with 25,871 cases and 441 deaths being reported on Thursday, according to HT’s Covid-19 dashboard.
Government data showed that 85% of all people who have died due to Covid-19 in the country were over the age of 45 years. People between the ages of 60 and 74 years, who are only 8% of the population, form the largest proportion of fatalities — 39%. Those older than 75 (2% of India’s population) account for 14% of the total Covid deaths.
At the other end of the spectrum, people under 14 years of age (35% of the population) make up only 1% of all Covid deaths in the country, and those between 15 and 24 years of age (18% of population) constitute 3% of fatalities. Those between the ages of 30 and 44 (22% of population) account for 11% of Covid deaths, the government said.
This is the first time in two months that the government has released an age-wise breakup of fatalities in the country. The data released on May 1 showed that of the 51.2% who died were above the age of 60, 42% between 60 and 75, and 9.2%, above 75.
“In spite of a population of 1.3 billion people, India has been able to manage Covid-19 relatively well,” Rajesh Bhushan, officer on special duty, Union health ministry, said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) report, India has 538 cases per million population while it is at least 16-17 times more in some countries, he said. “We have 15 deaths per million population, whereas we have countries where it is 40 times as much,” he said.
On a question about the Covid-19 outbreak in the country entering the community transmission phase, Bhushan said, “We should not forget that in our country, 49 districts alone account for 80% of Covid-19 cases. In a country of more than 733 districts, if 49 districts account for 80%, then it is not justified to talk about community transmission.”
He also highlighted data that showed that the proportion of patients who have recovered from Covid-19 has been growing steadily over the past three months, which has meant that the number of active cases in the country has not risen at an alarming rate. As the gap between active cases and recovered cases is growing, he said it ensures country’s health infrastructure is not “creaking under the pressure”.
As on July 9, there are total a total of 3,914 dedicated Covid-19 facilities in the country, with 377,737 isolation beds (without intensive care support), 39,820 intensive care unit (ICU) beds, and 142,415 oxygen supported beds along with 20,047 ventilators.
On the World Health Organization’s acknowledgement about “emerging evidence” of the airborne spread of the virus, officials said the outbreak was an evolving and dynamic situation that the government was tracking.
“We have been keeping abreast with information coming out of WHO headquarters on this aspect, but you would all appreciate and realise that even during the initial stages of the outbreak, we and PM Narendra Modi had repeatedly emphasised the importance of ‘do gaz ki doori (two-metre distance)’ and wearing masks... These concepts protect you from small droplets that may remain suspended in air for longer period of time,” Bhushan added.
When asked about ICMR director general’s letter on the launch of Covid-19 vaccine, he said that the 15 August deadline was “only to expedite duly approved clinical trials without compromising on safety and security concerns”.
Even as 100-odd vaccine candidates are at various stages of development globally, trials for two indigenous vaccine candidates that have also made it to the human clinical trials stage in India are about to start, officials said.
“In record time, indigenous vaccine candidates have been developed for the new disease. The aim of the letter was to ask sites to fast-track it. We need the vaccine today, if we go by conventional methods to develop the vaccine and take two years then it would be of no use,” said Dr Nivedita Gupta, senior scientist, epidemiology division, ICMR.