Covid 19 Update — March 26, 2020

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The data tracing the pandemic provide objective indicators as to how well different countries are doing in controlling the spread and damage of infection. The numbers submitted by different member states are estimates and therefore variable in reliability – the degree to which the reported number approximates the true number. Reliability is mostly determined by the quality of disease detection and reporting mechanisms.

A new case today had begun experiencing symptoms 2 to 12 days after being infected. As well, it takes time for a symptomatic case to be recorded. Thus, today’s numbers are snapshots of the past. The actions taken today to control the spread of infection will have increasing benefits over time. The countries selected for comparison are at different stages of the pandemic. Until the pandemic is over, the only meaningful comparisons are between countries at the same stage.

The three best indicators of national performance in managing the crisis are: 1. the rate of infection (cases/1Million pop), 2. the rate of mortality (deaths/1M pop), and 3. the percentage of new cases to old cases, over time describing the curve of contagion.

All the data in Table 1 and the last 4 days in Table 2 are from worldometers.info. The data from March 19 – 21 in Table 2 are from WHO’s daily updates.

For China, where it all began on Dec 31, 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, the pandemic is over. With 83.7% of China’s cases (1445/1M pop) and 96.3% (52/1M pop) of deaths, Hubei (population 59,170,000 ), suffered most of the damage. Following the false start of a knee-jerk denial, China acted swiftly with all the powers of a totalitarian state to control the spread of infection.

For South Korea, down to a trickle of 1% or so of new cases daily, the pandemic is just about over. From the time of the first recorded cases on January 21, South Korea’s response to controlling the threat has been exceptionally successful. It will be a hard performance to beat.

Iran’s infection rate has been flat, possibly increasing a bit.

For Italy and Spain the pandemic had catastrophic results with the high infection rates overwhelming their health care systems. For Italy, the worst is over, but the flat rates of about 7% of new infections daily are a great challenge for an overloaded health care system. The Spanish new infections rate remains high, most recently 15.06% hopefully to come down soon. Switzerland had a higher infection rate (1353/1M pop) than Italy and Spain, but with a much smaller population and a better health care system the death rate was much lower at 22/1M pop.

With far lower infection rates than Italy and Spain, France and Germany did much better. With a significantly larger number of cases, Germany’s mortality rate was very low at 3/1 M pop, compared to France’s 20/1M.

With the most recent new infection rate of about 15%, the UK is about 2 weeks behind Italy and it is not clear which way it will go from here. There are tough times ahead.

From the very beginning I thought that Canada’s response to the pandemic was remarkable. Working collaboratively, the authorities, businesses, organizations and citizens did what was needed to limit the damage. The numbers certainly confirm that conclusion. So far our national infection rate is less than half of the US 95/1M versus 229/1M and lower than all the countries in the report other than China, which has the population of about 1.4 billion compared to ours of about 37 million. Our mortality rate of 1.0/1M is the lowest of all the countries listed, and 1/3 of that of the US. The two neighbours have dramatically different approaches to the crisis and now the results are clear. While Canada’s new infection rate is flat or decreasing, the US’s is certain to increase with disastrous results. Sadly, with the lack of preparedness the health care services in some places are likely to be overwhelmed.

So far, we are doing a great job in limiting the damage. Today, I am as proud as ever of being Canadian. We can best help our country and ourselves by continuing to do what we have been doing so far.

AP, Toronto, March 26, 5 PM

Andrew Pakula is a long time peace activist and has been a member of Science for Peace from the very beginning. He is a retired social research and management consultant with a background in social psychology.

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