According to Worldometer, every year, an estimated 290,000 to 650,000 people die globally as a result of complications from seasonal influenza (flu) viruses. The viruses causing flu have been around for thousands of years, and every year different strains appear as a result of slight mutations taking place in them.They are constantly evolving taking forms slightly different from older pre-existing ones.
According to the United States CDC, around 61200 people died as a result of this in the 2018-2019 flu season which runs roughly from November to April in the United States alone. About 42.9 million people were infected between this same period. The flu(COMMON COLD) is caused by over 200 different viruses including the Human Coronavirus.
In all of this, nothing was shut down as a result as life moved on as usual. Of course there is an obvious difference between SARS-COV-2 ,the virus which causes Covid-19 and other Coronaviruses including the ones causing SARS, MERS and the seasonal flu. Nobody is disputing that as the case reproduction number R0 which ranges from 1.5 – 2.5 according to WHO for Covid 19, clearly shows ,whereas common flu is 1.3. Don’t forget that chicken pox has got a case reproduction number of about 10 .Still it is important to consider what exactly we are sacrificing and why for COVID-19.
Counting the Cost
Proponents of the lockdown say that doing so saves a lot of lives. These people are professionals and I have no intention to doubt their observations. Still it is important to run a multivariate analysis on how people are affected across different layers of existence so as to ascertain what exactly is going on and who is really affected.
Consider this for a moment, that COVID-19 has got a 98% survival rate among those tested. Consider also that the majority of those who have the virus are asymptomatic, and as a result never get tested. Factor this in and the survival rate goes up to around 99.5%.
These are not my figures, these are figures from experts from around the world. The significance of this figure is that it helps us to compare how fatal this pandemic is when matched against other life taking incidents or diseases.
Let’s for a moment consider the first death recorded in Nigeria as a result of COVID-19 , a man in his sixties who had cancer and was receiving chemotherapy. He also had chronic diabetes. It’s very difficult to say how much of his demise was as a result of SARS-COV-2 or as a consequence of a combination of factors.
Away from that.Take for instance in Africa, 3000 children die every single day as a result of malaria.
In Nigeria, an average of 12 persons were killed every day as a result of road accidents in 2019 alone according to data from the Federal Road Safety Corps.
So then, should we shut down the country or continent until every single mosquito is killed? or should transportation by road be banned until our roads are safe for humans to ply?
The chances of a Nigerian or by extension an African dying of COVID19 is far lower than the chances of dying from Malaria ,HIV /AIDS or hunger related complications, and is likely to remain so. Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between poverty and malaria deaths. Poverty makes people more vulnerable to a lot of things ranging from Malaria, to Maternal mortality to death by malnutrition to AIDS and a lot of other pitiable things. And an obvious fact is that prolonging the lock down will lead to more poverty and hunger both of which are killers in their own clime.
It would be a very unforgivable mistake for Africa to copy the Chinese/American/European templates in tackling the COVID19 crises for a number of reasons which includes but not limited to the fact that Europe and the rest has got a better social security system and a more effective way of dealing with hunger and that Africa has got a very young population, with a median age of 19.7 years and 60% of the population being aged below 25 years according to the Wikipedia .Then also factor in the fact that the average life expectancy in Africa is far lower than what obtains in the developed nations. All these add up to make Africa Very unlikely to suffer the same complexities the rest of the world has been hit with.
This isn’t my opinion, this is a fact. The chances of any one dying as a result of COVID-19 diminishes as the age reduces.
The figures below are from a Worldometer showing the COVID-19 mortality rate as it relates to age.
(80+ years old)14.8% , (70-79) 8.0%, ( 60-69 years) 3.6% ,(50-59 years) 1.3% , (40-49 years) 0.4% ,(40-49 years) 0.4% ,(30-39 years) 0.2%, (20-29 years) 0.2% ,(10-19 years) 0.2% , (0-9 years) no fatalities.
*Death Rate = (number of deaths / number of cases) = probability of dying if infected by the virus (%).
Looking at these figures, and then relating it to the fact that the median African age is 19.7 years and that 60% of the populace is below 25 diminishes further the possible severity of the pandemic in Africa.
Most of the casualties of the lock down induced hunger are going to be children in very poor communities, the same group that has the least likelihood of dying as a result of COVID-19(0% mortality rate between ages 0-9) and these numbers are going to exceed by far any fatalities from COVID-19.
What matters at the moment ?Is it how many lives saved in general or how many from COVID-19?
This is a paradox Africa must solve moving forward.
Should they sacrifice the youth and children who are likely not going to die of COVID-19 to save the old and aged who are more predisposed to it?
Could there be anything worse for Africa than 3000 child malaria deaths daily or the possibility of this figure rising due to hunger?
- Since going by available data children (0-9 years) are theoretically safe from COVID-19 complications, it could be advised that they go back to school to be taught by mostly young teachers.
- Since young people have between 0.2-0.4% probability of dying from COVID-19 complications, it could be recommended to send them back to work with adequate sanitary measures followed, PPE’s and social distancing techniques, while the elderly are advised to stay back.
- People in categories 1 and 2 with any pre-existing health condition should not be included as COVID-19 hardly kills any healthy individual.This does not imply that pockets of deaths have not been recorded amongst healthy people.
- Since going by available statistics, women are less likely to be victims than men, a modality should be worked out temporarily to get more of them involved in essential services back to work.
- Sanitizers should be available in all public places, and social distancing should be maintained.
In the end it boils down to doing whatever it takes to save more lives as the emphasis should be on numbers.