Ganesh idols in India ostensibly drank milk in September 1995 but the hysteria lasted just one day. That Covid-19’s publicly supported hysteria has already lasted more than two months is a grim sign of things to come. The least deadly pandemic in recorded human history (in terms of fatality rate) has shut the world down. After the Internet met mobile telephony and the world changed very rapidly, Covid-19 is the first true test the world has had to face collectively.
So, in an attempt to find some common-sense answers.
1. BUSINESS AS USUAL OTHERWISE?
Image Source: BBC
On an average 56 million people die every year around the world in this era. That comes to 4.67 million deaths a month. So, at the end of five months, in a normal year, the tally would be in the region of 23.4 million. Adjust a little for the first three months which see the most deaths in the year (along with December), and the number would go a little above 24 million by the end of May in a normal year in this era.
This is the average, some years are more; in 2014, 57 million people died without a pandemic (which also means a higher proportion of people, as the world population was less.) So, how many have died this year? According to Worldometer - about 24.3 million. According to the World Death Clock - about 23 million. Approximately, 370,000 people have died from C-19 so far.
That’s 1.5% of total deaths worldwide. For this, we shut the world down? Meanwhile, here are other yearly facts: 17 million people die every year from cardiovascular diseases, 9.5 million from Cancer, 3.91 million from respiratory diseases, 1.5 million people from TB, almost a million people still from HIV/AIDS, 650,000 from Flu, 600,000 people from Malaria and 160,000 from Cholera.
These are deaths, not cases; presumably most brains would short-circuit if we decided to calculate cases? And stuck cameras in wards to share them on social media?
2. A BAD CHOICE OF DATA CAN ONLY RESULT IN POOR DECISIONS
Image Source: BBC
Why are we measuring C-19 with worthless numbers such as “Number Of Cases” and “Recovered”? And why is that nonsense the foundation of public policy today? “Number Of Cases” is entirely a function of how much testing is done, where and on whom, and what is discovered. There can be considerable luck involved in this, as well as the potential for much calibration and indeed, manipulation.
Meanwhile, the “Recovered” statistic merely represents an on-going process (and seems to purely exist for manipulation). For these numbers to be at the centre of all discourses today shows how any entity wrongly represented by data with falsely drawn-out foundations, results in low IQ conclusions.
Cricket statistics have already demonstrated that, but that’s just a measly sport with a stupider essential accounting than any other sport whereas Covid-19 is literally about life and death. Here, the only number that should matter is the “Deaths” figure, despite all the talk about manipulation and hiding. That’s the only number worth engaging with, and if public policy were reversed with that as the focus and not “Number Of Cases”, the environmental system around Covid-19 would change.
For starters, that would seriously moderate the hugely corrosive stigma Covid-19 is rapidly causing in India on a scale unprecedented in the world. As it is, given its history of caste and communal disharmony, this is statistically the smallest-minded country that has ever existed (its ironic foundations of democracy notwithstanding), and C-19’s presence in this discourse is comfortably, and dangerously, fitting in with the existing poison.
3. COULD HOSPITALS BE REARRANGED?
The focus on deaths would also address the greatest fear associated with this virus – overloading the hospitals. It would be well known by now that 80% of infected people develop mild and easily manageable symptoms and essentially require two-week rest. What’s not so well known is that only 5% of the people tested for C-19 actually turn out positive.
Which means that 95% of these people who are crowding hospitals on the basis of feared symptoms should not be there at all. The most logical solution then seems to be to discourage people from coming to be tested. That can only happen if the fear psychosis around being infected goes away, and only people with recognisably severe symptoms are allowed in. Moreover, at the moment, everyone who tests positive ends up in the Covid-19 quarantine ward, even if they belong to the 80% mild symptoms category.
Which means that hospitals could comfortably get rid of at least 80% symptomatic patients and ask them to go home and quarantine themselves (those who can’t or those who have elderly people at home can choose to stay). That space can be invaluable for creating more makeshift ICU spaces, which is the critical element in combating this fear.
Most people below 60 who have died after being infected, whether in Italy or New York or indeed Mumbai or Delhi, as per the accounts that have appeared, tragically perished only because they were not treated on time, or more accurately, they could not make it to the ICU in time. If the entire focus of the administration were on guiding people through telephone lines and smartphones to the right place to go for diagnosis and ICU admission, much of the panic and frankly, cluelessness about a post-positive diagnosis would come under control.
Apparently, this is just beginning to happen in some parts of India, including Mumbai, but it needs to happen as a clear, communicated homogeneous policy, which is still not the case. This is particularly critical in light of the dread that is apparently there in many Mumbai hospitals currently bracing for what they feel is to come as the lockdown lifts.
The healthcare staff are the most at risk, and every effort from the authorities should be focussed on them, from PPEs to just their general morale, to help provide a larger picture and dispel the panic, whether the storm hits or not.