Millionth corona death: Male, seventies, possibly from India


It started about ten days ago with a fever after a day of work in the field. Or no, it probably started earlier, with a cough that was barely noticeable because the patient, in the seventies, had had a barely treated lung disease for years. A test at the village clinic showed positive for the corona virus. After that, the condition deteriorated rapidly, the man died without making it to the hospital. Only his widow and children were present at the cremation.

There is a significant chance that the millionth person who succumbed to Covid-19 is indeed, as in this fictional example, an Indian farmer. At least, the millionth dead to hit the statistics. According to the Johns Hopkins University database, this victim fell on Monday, almost eight months after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an international emergency. Other counters, such as that of The New York Times or Worldometer, indicated slightly fewer or slightly more registered deaths on Monday.

Center of gravity races across the world

While the official data is undoubtedly an underestimation of reality, the millionth death in the statistics is a point in time when the new virus surfaced in Wuhan in January was hardly imaginable to many people. In the meantime, the center of gravity of the pandemic has swept across the world, from China to the East Asian region, to Western Europe, on to the United States, to Latin America and now arriving in India. Worldwide, more than 33 million infections have been diagnosed.

India had an average of 7,700 registered Covid-19 deaths per day for the past week, more than the US (5,000), which has topped this list for months. On Sunday, India passed the six million positive test mark. Every day there are about 80,000 new cases, which is already less than the peak of 98,000 on September 12.

The virus has long been a problem in India for the megacities of Mumbai and New Delhi, but is now also spreading rapidly to smaller cities and towns. Supposedly, the massive internal migration of day laborers returning from the major cities to their home villages during the spring lockdown has contributed to this. In the past week, nearly one in three positive tests administered worldwide came from India.

Covid-19 still a mystery

After nine months of capturing the world, Covid-19 is in many ways still a mystery. For example, there is no beginning of an explanation for the relatively low death toll in Africa (35,000). But due to the scale of the pandemic, much is known. For example, we know that people over 70 run a substantially higher risk of serious illness due to this virus. This is especially true for people who have underlying medical problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, serious lung disease and cancer. Such health problems can also lead to serious symptoms in younger people if they become infected with the corona virus.

Immune disorders, severe obesity and poorly controlled HIV infection also contribute to an increased risk. Because people from these more sensitive groups become more seriously ill, the risk of death from corona is also greater.

We now know that men are more at risk than women. For every ten women with a positive test result, there are eleven men with an infection. In addition to every ten women who are hospitalized with corona, there are thirteen men. And for every ten women who die of Covid-19, there are fourteen men with the same fate.

The income factor

Income inequality also appears to play a role. The American university UCLA found that the risk of death in the US was highest in New York, the state with the greatest income disparities, and lowest in Utah, where the disparities are smallest. Data from the cities of New York and Chicago shows that black and Hispanic Americans – who are more likely to have low incomes, less access to care, and fewer options to work from home – are more likely to be affected.

Also check out this In Picture: Ten months and one million corona deaths later

Seen in this way, the millionth corona death could very well be someone from Brazil or Mexico, countries with large differences in income and wealth. Brazil now has the highest official death toll after the US. Mexico ranks fourth, below India.

WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reported earlier this month that one in seven corona patients works in healthcare, in some countries as much as one in three. Nevertheless, the chance that the millionth death is a nurse is relatively small: the International Council for Nurses has counted more than a thousand colleagues who have died.

Earlier this month, Mike Ryan, WHO emergency director, called for greater protection for health workers, migrants, detainees and the elderly. In some rich countries, elderly people in care homes make up 80 percent of the death toll, he said in a speech to the United Nations, without naming those countries. “We have to relate fundamentally differently to the older generations,” he says.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the millionth death is that he (or she) will probably soon be forgotten. On Friday at a WHO press conference, Ryan forced the world to look ahead. “If we don’t do everything about it,” he said, the odds that the pandemic will also cost a two-millionth life is “not only conceivable, but unfortunately very likely.”

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