The Covid-19 Riddle: Why Does the Virus Wallop Some Places and Spare Others?-New York Times


The effects of coronavirus have seen a disparate distribution of cases across the world. The NYT report underwrites, “Global metropolises like New York, Paris and London have been devastated, while teeming cities like Bangkok, Baghdad, New Delhi and Lagos have, so far largely been spared.”

Health experts say that they don’t have enough data to get a full epidemiological picture. Testing is dismal in many places, and deaths are almost unaccounted. Howbeit, a broad pattern is discernible as health officials, epidemiologists and academics suggest that four main factors could help explain the disparity in virus infections: demographics, culture, environment and the speed of government responses. Still, these explanations come with certain caveats and counterfactuals. 

Many countries who have escaped mass infections have relatively younger populations. “Africa — with about 45,000 reported cases, a tiny fraction of its 1.3 billion people — in the world’s youngest continent, with more than 60 per cent of its population under age 25,” indicates the analysis. On the other hand Italy, one of the hardest-hit countries, has a median age of 45. The average age of people who died was around 80. Yet Japan, with the world’s oldest average population, has recorded fewer than 520 deaths.

Second, “cultural factors, like the social distancing that is built into certain societies, may give some countries more protection”. In Thailand, India, Japan, and South Korea people greet each other at a distance through joining palms and bowing. While in Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq and the Persian Gulf countries, men often embrace or shake hands, yet the number of cases is low.

Third, geographical factors like cold weather and temperate zones of Italy and United states witnessed increasing cases. At the same time, Chad or Guyana have negligent cases, suggesting “virus did not take well to heat”.

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Finally, countries that imposed lockdown measures immediately, like Vietnam and Greece have been able to avoid mass contagions. However, countries with minimal social safety net could find themselves in a dilemma of social distancing and feeding. On the whole, most experts agree that one causal factor is not sufficient “for some countries to be hit and others missed”. It may be a combination of all factors mentioned above.

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