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Covid 19 Update 4 – April 8

In the recent Ontario report projecting 3000 – 10000 deaths from Covid in two years, the range includes a number of possible outcomes/scenarios with different probabilities. For a very good reason, these probabilities are not released to the general public. I think that the actual outcome in this and other models will be far closer to the lowest estimated number. Everyone will be happy and the politicians will all take credit. We will know when the pandemic is over.

With Ontario’s population of 14.57 M, the projected mortality /1M pop range is between 206 and 686. In South Korea, where the pandemic is practically over with a trickle of less than 1% new cases daily, the mortality rate is 4 /1M !

March 25 was the last day included in the first update. Let us consider how the countries have progressed since then.

Unmindful of human rights and civil liberties, China’s totalitarian government was successful in ending the pandemic and nearly eradicating the virus. Today, Wuhan where it all began, emerged from lockdown. In the past, the eradication strategies had not been as successful. In 1958 Chairman Mao called for the eradication of sparrows – “thieves of seeds and grains”. It worked, but unleashed a plague of locusts, destroying the harvests and unleashing the Great Famine with millions of deaths.

All Chinese numbers are suspect, particularly as unlike most nations, they do not report testing data. Given the nature of the novel Coronavirus, particularly as up to 25% of cases are asymptomatic but infectious, I doubt that the Chinese rate of less than 0.1% new infections daily is realistic. I think that the South Korean rate of less than 1% is the best we can hope for.

Nevertheless, China moved promptly from tragedy to success. With the conditions quickly returning to normal, every day brings China greater economic advantage, as it provides much of the world with masks, sanitizers, ventilators and just about everything else. By helping countries suffering in the pandemic, it has gained a great deal in good will and prestige. It is making a major contribution to medical research on Covid 19.

With daily new infection rates of about 0.5% daily and the mortality rate of 4 /1M pop, South Korea’s response to the crisis has been nothing short of remarkable. They will reap in great economic benefits as things return to normal and deserve to celebrate a great national accomplishment. Why have so many other countries done so poorly in comparison?

Iran’s new infection rate is in the single digits and coming down slowly. With 3872 it has more deaths than China.

Spain overtook Italy in infection and mortality rates. For both countries the daily % of new infections is in the single digits and coming down slowly but painfully with hundreds of deaths daily.

On March 25, France and Germany were in similar situations. Since then, the two have moved in opposite directions. Germany did well to limit new infections. It flattened the curve and did more testing. France did not and will continue to pay the price. At 158 / 1M pop the French mortality rate is 6.58 times higher than Germany’s 24. Yesterday’s 1417 deaths in France were second only to the US.

Although forewarned, the UK reacted slowly and the numbers suggest under reporting and indicate that the worst is still to come.

As they do nearly no testing, Brazil’s numbers are meaningless and cover up what one commentator described as “a mountain of deaths”.

Sadly, for the US, there will be terrible weeks ahead as the pandemic moves from state to state killing disproportionately more African Americans and people living in more polluted places.

In the first update on March 25 I wrote how proud I was of Canada’s collective response to the crisis. Today, I stand even more proud. The numbers clearly confirm that we have so far done very well compared to most of the others.

We have kept the infection curve flat thus avoiding traumatic peaks which might have overwhelmed our resources. Our governments have responded in a collaborative and proficient way. The health care community is doing a great job and deserves our thanks. Overwhelmingly, our citizens have acted responsibly. As I look from my window at Yonge and Sheppard, usually one of the busiest intersections in Toronto, I see very few cars and people, the latter scrupulously far apart. The buses at the subway station arrive and leave nearly empty.

Canada’s daily new infection rate is definitely trending down and into the single digits. Now that it is going downward we need to make it steep by being patient and continuing doing what we have been doing so well. How well a country responds to a great crisis reflects the collective functionality of its governments and civil society. Our country works !

AP, Toronto, April 8, 1:30 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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