A cautious hope against Covid-19 for Pakistan

Novel coronavirus (nCoV-2019) has spread over 213 countries, regions and territories so far with 2,378,727 confirmed cases, 163,874 deaths and 613,203 recovered as on 19 April 2020 by 17:00 GMT.

The most hit-countries include the United States with 39,821 deaths (24.30% of total global deaths), Italy with 23,660 deaths (14.45%), Spain with 20,453 deaths (12.50%), France with 19,718 deaths (12%), the United Kingdom with 16,060 deaths (10%), Belgium with 5,683 deaths (3.5%), Iran with 5,118 deaths (3.12%), China with 4,632 deaths (2.8%), Germany with 4547 deaths (2.7%) and Netherlands with 3,684 deaths (2.25% of the total deaths).

Integration and analysis of various research studies and numerous reliable data reflect that the Covid-19 pandemic will not be as devastating in Pakistan as it has been seen in the US, Italy, Spain, France, the UK, Belgium, Iran and Netherlands.

The data shared by the WHO and other affected countries show that aged citizens are more prone to death owing to this pandemic. More than 80% of the infected patients who died later were the elderly people. On the other hand, it has also been revealed that the death rate in the youth and children is either very less or negligible. Further, as known unquestionably, the immune system in the human body is so far the central player in the fight against novel coronavirus.

If infected by this virus, according to a report of the WHO-China Joint Mission, the probability of dying among the people of 80+ years, 70-79 years, 60-69 years and 50-59 years is 14.8%, 8.0%, 3.6% and 1.3%, respectively. While in case of 10-49 years of age, the risk of dying is negligible (0.2-0.4% only). The same report reflects that there are no fatalities among the population of 0-9 years of age.

Besides a few other contributing factors, the percentage of elderly population compared with children upto 14 years of age and the strength of the human immune system in Pakistan are altogether different from the most-hit and affected countries in Europe, America and neighboring China and Iran.

As per data available on a US website, 30% population of the US, 36% of Italy, 31% of Spain, 33% of France, 31% of the UK, 33% of Belgium, 25% of China, 39% of Germany and 34% of Netherlands is 55 years of age or above. These are among the most-hit countries by coronavirus where death tolls are very high. On the other hand, only 10% of the Pakistani population is 55 years of age or above.

Similarly, 18% of the US , 13% population of Italy, 15% of Spain, 18% of France, 18% of the UK , 17% of Belgium, 24% of Iran, 17% of China, 13% of Germany and 16% population of the Netherlands is of 0-14 years of age. Contrary to these low percentages, about 36% of Pakistani population is between 0-14 years of age.

As far as the immune system is concerned, various research studies previously published in the leading and renowned research journals, including a study by scientists of University of Groningen, the Netherlands, revealed that environment and genetics contribute to the human immune system. Many researchers, including a group from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, demonstrated that environment, more than genetics, shapes immunity. A set of other studies declare that Europeans and Americans have weaker immune systems than Africans and Asians. Yet another finding by scientists from the University of Montreal and Queen Mary University of London concluded that ethnic differences affect immune response, and white races have genetically weaker immune systems than black races.

Most recently, in the first week of April 2020, a group of scientists from Beihang University, Beijing and Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, has recently highlighted the relationship between weather and the transmission of COVID-19 to forecast the intensity and end time of this pandemic. These researchers have concluded that high temperature and high humidity will reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

Therefore, in my opinion, Pakistan is very less likely to face the severe and the devastating situation of this pandemic like the most-hit countries as we have (i) less number of vulnerable-to-death people with the age of 55 years or above (only 10%), (ii) a large number of safe population of 0-14 years (36%) as against the severely-affected most-hit states in the Europe and America, (iii) genetically, environmentally and ethnically more stronger immune systems than European and Americans, and (iv) largely more hot and humid season in upcoming months contrary to the West. It is pertinent to mention that only 168 deaths, which make only 0.10% deaths of the total global deaths, have been confirmed in Pakistan.

This opinion, based on various studies and data, may also be augmented by the facts that as high as 61% and 27.5% of the total deaths have been reported from Europe and America (both North & South) till date, while only 9% deaths have been reported from Asia. Further, the death rate in Pakistan is only 2.1% while the death rate in the US, Italy, Spain, France, the UK, Belgium, Iran, China, Germany and Netherlands averages 9.5%.

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