On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 to be a global pandemic. In the two years since then, we have passed one grim milestone after another. As of yesterday, there have been 483 million cases worldwide or 6.1% of the total population of 7.9 billion. There have been a total of 6.2 million deaths.
When one looks at the per capita death rates, apart from Peru (which has the highest rate), Brazil, and Chile, the rest of the top 20 countries for cases are in Europe or the US. In fact, the highest ranking country outside Europe and the Americas is at #35 with Tunisia. A similar pattern holds for infection rates.
With just 4.2% of the global population, the US has had 82 million cases and over one million deaths, about 16% of each total. One question of local interest is why the rates in the US are four times the per capita rate for the world, when it had plentiful and early access to vaccines. One obvious factor is Covid skepticism and vaccine resistance in the US. The percentage of people who needlessly got sick and died due to those factors needs to be taken into account.
Other factors may be that there has been undercounting of cases and deaths in other countries. It may be that lack of testing led to under-diagnoses or that deaths in other countries were mistakenly or even deliberately ascribed to other causes either because of stigma associated with the disease and the desire to avoid the social isolation required, or because governments wanted to underplay the severity of the disease. Another is that the US and Europe have older populations who are more adversely affected.
Another factor is that although China has 18% of the global population, the number of cases and deaths is relatively minuscule. The same is true, to a lesser degree, for India which has 17% of the global population. This will skew the distribution.
But all these explanations are just guesswork at this point and require considerable evidence to substantiate such a big difference of a factor of four for the per capita rates in the US.
It is going to be difficult to figure out what the exact numbers are. The most reliable figure is likely to be the counting of excess deaths during the pandemic period. By comparing the total number of deaths in each country with a baseline obtained from historical trends before the pandemic, one could reasonably postulate that the excess deaths were to covid.
All this is assuming of course that the pandemic has largely run its course. While I am hoping that that is the case, the arrival of the BA.2 version of the virus, the rise in cases in some countries, and the plateauing of the decrease in the US are worrying signs.
It looks like I will need to keep wearing my mask for some time to come.