Covid-19: What you need to know today
It was a weekend that saw a succession of grim milestones as the coronavirus disease continues to ravage countries around the world — with the US, Brazil and India being the most affected.
The global case number will most likely cross the 20-million mark on Monday. On Saturday, the US crossed the 5-million case mark, Brazil crossed the 3-million case mark, and also 100,000 deaths, and, closer home, Maharashtra, the Indian state worst affected by the pandemic, crossed 500,000 cases. All are worrying numbers.
The US, with a little over 5 million cases as of Sunday morning has added 47% of its caseload since July 1. July and August have been bad months for all three countries. India, with around 2.15 million cases as of Sunday morning, added 73% of its caseload in the same time. And Brazil, with a little over 3 million cases, added 53% of its caseload in the 39-day period. The numbers have been compared using data from worldometers.info.
It is a mathematical certainty that deaths will rise, if only with a lag, as cases increase (they have continued to in India and Brazil; the US saw a dip in mid-June, with 7-day average of daily new cases falling to the low 20,000s, but has since witnessed a sharp rise; the current 7-day average according to the New York Times databases is around 54,000; all 7-day averages are from the database). The US has seen this, with 7-day average of daily deaths climbing to around 1,000 now, after falling to the 500s in June. India’s 7-day average of daily deaths has risen to around 860. Brazil’s has been around the 1,000 mark since late May. The overall case fatality rate (number of deaths as a proportion of number of cases) for the US was 3.2%, India, 2%, and Brazil, 3.33%. Even as the number of cases has increased, this proportion has declined for all three countries — the corresponding numbers on June 30 for the US was 4.8%, Brazil, 4.2%, and India, 3%. Clearly, as this columnist has previously mentioned, we appear to be getting better at saving lives — which is understandable. Doctors around the world are discovering which intervention and medicine works best at each stage of the disease, information that is being shared almost in real-time. Some of the therapies (including plasma therapy) are experimental and there is a bit of a hit-and-miss involved, but, in general, health systems around the world are seeing fewer deaths.
This is starkly evident when only the cases and deaths registered since July 1 are considered. The US saw a case fatality rate of 1.43% in this period, India, 1.66%, and Brazil, 2.55%. To be sure, while this is how case fatality rates are calculated, there is some internal inconsistency in this calculation, one that has been previously pointed out by some experts — deaths lag corresponding cases by two to three weeks. Still, these numbers do highlight the trend that’s clearly visible in the US and India especially (Brazil’s numbers are a little too volatile for it to be included in this): more cases through July and August, but fewer deaths.
Over the last two weeks, interestingly, the US has been on a decreasing curve of daily new cases, evident in its declining 7-day average, which has fallen by around 13,000 cases in this period. India, over these two weeks, has been on an increasing curve of new cases, with new hot spots showing clusters of cases emerging in the hinterland and the peninsula. According to the NYT database, India’s 7-day average on August 8 was around 3,500 higher than the corresponding number for the US. That is a worrying trend, even if allowances were to be made for India’s much higher population.