Covid-19 death rates similar globally, lowest in India: Study

It would be logical to expect that countries with supposedly better healthcare and distribution facilities would have smaller per million cases as well as deaths.

Published: 20th May 2021 04:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th May 2021 04:19 AM   |  A+A-

A KSRTC bus converted into an ICU, in Bengaluru on Wednesday | vinod kumar T

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Despite the mayhem caused by the second wave of the pandemic and India’s unpreparedness to respond to the unprecedented surge, the death rate from Covid-19 is “very similar across countries, with India still among the lowest,” according to Dr Shiv Narayan Nishad from CSIR-National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, New Delhi, and Prof Prashant Goswami, Institute of Frontier Science and Applications (IFSA), Bengaluru. Their findings have been published in a scientific paper they have co-authored and is available as a preprint in ‘The Lancet’, the prestigious international science journal.

The paper - ‘A Comparative and Evidence-Based Assessment of COVID-19 Response in India’ is an “evidence-based analysis using public domain data from global platforms like WHO, as well as a couple of other international sources on high degrees of similarities in regional structures. Also, the death rates were found to be very similar (about 2 per cent of the confirmed cases), in spite of a wide range of health care practices across the world,” Goswami told The New Indian Express. The two scientists and co-authors have re-examined this issue in view of the second Covid-19 wave.

Recently, there have been a lot of discussions in India as well as in international media regarding the severity of the second wave of Covid in India, and India’s presumed failure to respond to it. “While better foresight, stricter preventive measures and higher efficiency in vaccination are undoubtedly required, it is worthwhile to compare India’s performance in a global context to learn valuable lessons as well as to avoid loss of morale due to thoughtless analysis,” said Goswami.

To begin with, Covid-19 is considered to spread through agent-based (through people-to-people contact) transmissions. Thus, a logical analysis should consider the cases per capita (like per million) of population. Actual numbers hide the fact that a country may be dealing with 10 times more population (and hence contacts) than a country, but is still lower on Covid cases or deaths, the study says.

The epochal behavior of Covid, in terms of daily new cases, with two, somewhat separate, major peaks (with a much higher second peak) is very characteristic for the US and the UK. India has followed a similar pattern, but with a lag of about 90 days, and with much smaller per million cases till now. It was also pointed out that the initial growth of the pandemic, (normalised 15-day epochal linear trend), was very similar across the world. However, with the availability of data on the second wave, and post March, 2020, a number of interesting features have emerged, which can aid preventive preparedness and planning

Perhaps the most significant feature is that in spite of wide variations in types of response and the efficiency of health care set-up across different countries, the death rate from Covid-19 is very similar across countries, with India still among the lowest! While the issue of underreporting of cases/deaths may remain, an analysis of cases and deaths as percentage of tests carried out also show a similar scenario, although there is an increase in death rate as percentage of tests in India in the past weeks (becoming comparable to that of the US), the study points out.

It would be logical to expect that countries with supposedly better healthcare and distribution facilities would have smaller per million cases as well as deaths. However, international data shows that the performance in India, both in terms of number of cases (prevention) and deaths (cure) remain among the best in the world. While this cannot be any reason for complacence, it does put the issue in a more logical perspective. After all, Covid-19 being a novel pandemic, its patterns of growth and spread are still emerging. Thus, the emergence or the severity of the second Covid-19 wave was not predicted or anticipated by the agencies concerned, nationally or internationally, the analysis says.

Going by the global patterns, the second wave  should subside by May-end if the preventive measures are carefully followed. However, the possibility of a third wave cannot be ruled out; an important and urgent preparatory measure would be to complete the vaccination of the population in the next three months, it stressed.(More details: also at WHO website


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