Covid-19: What you need to know today
We are getting better at saving the lives of those infected with the coronavirus disease. It’s either that, or the disease itself is becoming less virulent. That’s something that’s been known to happen to flu viruses particularly, although the Sars-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, has ended up proving everyone wrong about almost everything. Sure, it’s a flu virus, but it turns out that it affects the heart, kidney, liver, even the brain. It also emerges that at least some of those who recovered after being ill enough to be hospitalised will bear the physical and psychological scars of their ordeal for months, perhaps years (and in some cases, forever).
Still, I digress.
The main point, and it’s a cheerful one to begin July with, is that the pandemic seems to be killing fewer people even as it continues to rage through the world.
According to the World Health Organization, every day in the week to July 1, saw at least 160,000 new cases of Covid-19 around the world. And 40% of all coronavirus cases until now were recorded in June. July may be no different. The first day of the month saw in excess of 215,000 new cases.
But the trend is different when it comes to deaths. Only 26% of all deaths from Covid-19 we have seen so far were recorded in June. That’s a statistic which is remarkable enough to be repeated another way — just around one in four people who succumbed to the coronavirus disease so far, around the world, died in June. Or, in still another way, around 380,000 of the 510,000 Covid-19 casualties so far were recorded before the beginning of June.
That’s entirely understandable: we now know more about the coronavirus disease, how it infects people, and how it affects, even kills them. And research has also pointed us in the direction of medicines that work. For instance, remdesivir appears to work on people with mild or moderate infections if given early on; dexamethasone on people with severe infections who are on oxygen support if given late; plasma therapy seems to work in some cases (and it should; the science is a proven one and very old) although more data on its efficacy is needed.
And so, even as the number of cases has increased, the number of deaths has dipped. The trend line of daily cases (global) and daily deaths (again, global) clearly indicates that. But there are riders. Countries may not be recording deaths accurately — either as a deliberate act or because their systems are shot. Many of the new cases in June, for instance, were in Latin America, and there have been reports that some of the countries in that region (notably Peru and Brazil) may be underreporting the number of deaths. The trend may still hold — after all, investigations by the New York Times and the Financial Times found that many western nations were also undercounting the number of dead, and many of those deaths date back to March, April and May — but it is always good to understand the caveats.
What about India?
Unfortunately, India continues to see no decline in the number of daily deaths, which has inched up steadily. The five-day average at the end of May 31 was 221, and the five-day average on June 30 was 421. In absolute terms, India recorded 65% of its cases and 68% of its deaths in June, although the second proportion is skewed by the 2,004 deaths the country recorded on June 16 when both Delhi and Maharashtra decided to reconcile their backlog of deaths. P.S: As always, much of this column has been possible because of the data collected, maintained, and analysed by HT’s Jamie Mullick. I’m 96 not out because he has been happy to run many singles.