The Global South resists the COVID virus

My e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey sent me this chart and a link to a New York Times article indicating that death toll from the coronavirus has been a lot less in poor nations in Asia and Africa than in rich nations in Europe and North America.

The writer, David Leonhardt, isn’t sure why.  It’s not that the African and Asia nations fail to record the COVID-19 deaths, he wrote.  Record-keeping is pretty good in the cities, where you’d expect the disease to be at its worst.

Some possibilities:

  • Young people resist the disease better than older people, and African and Asian populations are on average younger than European and North American popultions.
  • People in Africa and Asia on average care for their elderly relatives at home rather than putting them in nursing homes, and a large proportion of COVID-19 deaths have been in nursing homes.
  • People in poor African and Asian countries on average are more exposed to infectious disease, and may be developed more of an overall resistance to infection.
  • Homes and places of business in tropical countries are better ventilated than in more northerly climes.

Ventilation is an important aspect of controlling an airborne, respiratory disease.  It hasn’t received near the attention it should in the USA.

I’d add another point.

Air travel is an important vector for the spread of the disease.  Infected passengers in the enclosed space of a plane spread the virus to others, and they all become potential speaders in the places where they land.

The spread wouldn’t have been nearly as bad as it was in, for example, New York City if incoming passengers from Europe had been screened for the virus.

Poor countries in Africa and Asia get less air traffic to begin with, and my impression is that countries that have been most successful in fighting the virus have restricted incoming air travel.

Or maybe the explanation is just that many poor countries simply did a better job of combating the virus than rich countries.

∞∞

The overall coronavirus situation is better than I expected it to be this time last year.  Drug companies developed vaccines in less than a year, and vaccinations are proceeding with all deliberate speed, especially here in the USA.

I think President Trump, for all the harm he did in discouraging masking, made the right choice in Operation Warp Speed, which was simply to give large amounts of money to drug researchers in the hope that a few of them would come up with something good.

In the present vaccine rollout, I don’t think the people who need the vaccine the most are not being prioritized as they should.  But maybe that’s less important than simply immunizing as many people as possible as quickly as possible.  If President BIden’s vaccination goal is achieved by May, that will be have been great achievement.

The anti-virus struggle isn’t over.  The new mutant strains are worrisome.  But things are better than they might have been.

LINKS

A cornonavirus whodunnit? by David Leonhardt for the New York Times.

How Europe and the United States Lost COVID-19 by David Wallace-Wells for New York magazine.  [Added 3/15/2021]

Covid conundrum: Pandemic is hitting rich countries harder than poor ones by Yen Makabenta for the Manila Times.

Why Does the Pandemic Seem to Be Hitting Some Countries Harder Than Others? by Siddhartha Mukherjee for The New Yorker

Update 3/13/2021. Maybe I spoke too soon.  Maybe the differences between individual countries are more important than the differences between categories of countries.

Brazil’s catastrophic mismanagement of COVID-19 threatens the entire world by DemocraciaAbierta via OpenDemocracy.

Brazilian President tells citizens to ‘stop whining’ as COVID deaths hit record highs by ABC News (Australia)

India reports year’s biggest COVID death spike by Swati Bhat for Reuters.

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