In India almost half of the COVID-19 deaths are reported to be below age 60 years and in Mexico nearly one fourth of the Covid-19 deaths were aged 25-49 years. (In Nepal, nearly all the 20 COVID-19 deaths so far are below 70 years). This new twist in COVID-19 mortality highlights the unpredictable nature of pandemic as it continues to spread across the various regions of the world.
COVID-19 death rates also vary markedly by sex. Approximately 60% of those who have succumbed to the coronavirus are men. Why the novel coronavirus tends to affect men more severely than it does women has not yet been established.
Historically, delaying death came about largely through a complex, integrated combination of individual behaviour, collective action, scientific knowledge and human ingenuity. And that four-factor combination continues to be the basic strategy needed to effectively confront the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The less developed regions, which account for 78% of the world’s estimated total annual deaths, have experienced about 28% of the COVID-19 deaths. As has been the case in previous pandemics, a crucial ingredient in confronting the novel coronavirus is individual behaviour.
Individuals, especially the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions, can take numerous precautions to limit their exposure to the coronavirus, minimise their chances of contracting COVID-19 and reduce the risks of infecting others. Those precautions need to be continued when people return to their normal daily activities, including employment, personal responsibilities and recreation.
Physical distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, disinfecting touched surfaces, avoiding crowded places and staying at home when ill are among the responsible actions that each individual can take to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Prudent health practices are also essential at the workplace, in schools, in shops, during travel, when attending religious services and participating in social events.
Collective action to safeguard the public’s health and wellbeing is also a vital component in addressing the pandemic. In addition to facilitating testing, tracing and isolating and providing access to urgent medical care, local governments and communities can limit the number, size and types of gatherings, enlist the cooperation of businesses and institutions, identify people in need, support medical and essential workers and assist the elderly and other high-risk groups.
Governments at the national level have a key role in confronting the coronavirus pandemic. Based on past pandemics, history indicates that their efforts should focus on timely and decisive actions in critical areas. Among those areas are providing leadership, coordinating overall strategies, promoting sound information and clear messaging, supporting research, testing and data collection, softening the economic consequences and cooperating with regional and international efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic and limit its deadly consequences.
Government officials should also avoid politicising the pandemic. National leaders need to unite the efforts of the entire country, as has been demonstrated in a number of countries such as Germany, Japan, New Zealand and Vietnam, to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease and reduce Covid-19’s death toll.