RAMESH THAKUR. Coronavirus postscript

Two brief comments as a follow up to my article on coronavirus on Monday.

First, I noted the puzzling variance in the fatality rates, from 0.75% in Germany to 10.84% in Italy. Here is a plausible explanation. In Italy, every person who dies with a coronavirus infection is recorded as dying from it, but only 12% of these deaths have actually been caused by coronavirus. The latter would imply a mortality rate of a more credible 1.3%. A similar point is made about the UK by John Lee, a recently-retired Professor of Pathology who spent most of his adult life in healthcare and science, regarding the relative mortality rates of flu and coronavirus with only the latter listed as a notifiable disease. Incidentally, having scaled down its estimate of the maximum death toll from 500,000 to 20,000, Imperial College now puts the figure of 5,700 as the likely number of coronavirus deaths, of whom up to two-thirds would have died from other causes within one year anyway. So 5,700 will die with coronavirus in the UK but under 2,000 will die due to coronavirus.

In Germany, by contrast, the underlying health conditions are recorded as the cause of death, not coronavirus. And Germany has tested a broader spectrum of the population, including children and those with very mild symptoms, rather than the Italian practice of testing the very sick who have been hospitalised.

Second, more and more medical-scientific-epidemiological experts are speaking out questioning the mass hysteria and the panicky responses. The diversion of resources to fight coronavirus on a war footing, the  damage inflicted on the economy as a result, the rise in serious mental health problems and the  degrading of health services with sharp economic losses means that the true moral debate is not ‘lives vs money’, but ‘lives vs lives’.

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Ramesh Thakur is a professor emeritus at the Crawford School of Public Policy, the Australian National University.

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