Recent statistics in Covid infection reveals that the infection rate is surging in many countries but hopefully, the death toll falls. In Europe, South Korea, Australia and elsewhere, countries that successfully controlled the virus are now seeing a spike in cases. UAE is also recommended of considering further local lock-downs as the chances of a second wave of the virus hit is quite nearer.
Yet like many other countries, the increase in cases here has not been matched by a surge in deaths. So, is the virus becoming less deadly – or are we witnessing the calm before the storm of a second wave of Covid-19?
Statistics on Covid-19 infection
Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic is still raging, with over 24 million cases resulting in over 800,000 deaths so far. Yet many countries who appeared to have successfully controlled the virus are now seeing renewed surges in Covid-19 cases.
Since the end of June, Spain and France have witnessed almost a ten-fold surge in new infections, now running at several thousand a day.
Even South Korea has seen a five-fold rise in infections this month, and on Tuesday closed schools in the capital, Seoul. Germany, Italy and the UK are also seeing case numbers rise, though far less dramatically.
UAE records several hundreds of Covid infections per day which is a rise by ten per cent compared to the figures in March.
Yet the surge in infections seen in many countries has not been mirrored by rising numbers of deaths, which have largely continued to fall or remain static.
Is the virus turning weaker?
This could be one among the reliable explanations. It also fits in with the theory that pandemic viruses tend to mutate into less deadly forms, as they have a better chance of being transmitted if they don’t kill their human hosts.
However, studies of Sars-CoV-2 – the scientific name for the corona virus, which causes Covid-19 – suggest it has a relatively slow mutation rate. As such, a substantial decrease in its lethality is unlikely to have taken place over recent months.
Is it the medication that helps?
Use of more effective medicines like dexamethasone has conspicuously reduced the death rates. Earlier, no treatment was known, and what was popular, like hydroxychloroquine, were not at all effective. Besides, they produced serious side-effects on some patients.
While in March almost 60 per cent of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units died, this figure dropped to around 40 per cent by May and is still falling. However, this can’t explain why the surge in infections has led to virtually unchanged death rates.
More tests giving more counts?
This is widely seen as a key part of the explanation. In the early days of the pandemic, many countries were forced to limit tests to people already showing signs of Covid-19 and thus more likely to die from it. Now the greater availability of testing is leading to positive results from people with mild infections who are much less likely to die.
But this gives no proper explanation for the death toll reduction.
Is it low-risk group that hike the count?
With testing now more widely available, it is also covering more of the population – especially younger age-groups, who are known to be at substantially lower risk of dying from Covid-19.
A recent international study suggests that while the mortality rate among those over-80s who become infected is around 1 in 10, this plunge to around 1 in 100 for those between 60 and 69, and is close to zero for those under 40.
Ignore the surge or not?
Never ignore the surge. While the surge may be taking place primarily among younger people with very little chance of dying, they remain capable of passing it on to older, more vulnerable people. This risk is likely to increase as more young people are compelled to move back in with their parents because of economic hardship.
Moreover, death is not the sole result from Covid infection. Cases are reported about permanent health damage that the infection had resulted, including organ damage in rare cases.