How deadly is the novel coronavirus? What percentage of people die of COVID-19? These questions continue to baffle epidemiologists and laymen alike at a time when the total deaths caused by the virus are in the lakhs and the total infections are in the millions.
What is most puzzling is the disparity in the ratio of the infected and the dead among different population groups. The death rate is found to be more than 13% in Italy, while it is less than 0.75% in Germany, its northern neighbour.
In the US, official figures put the death rate at 3.4%.
Case fatality numbers also vary widely among various states. At about 7%, Michigan has the highest number of recorded deaths, while the western state of Wyoming has the lowest, at about 0.7 percent.
WHO updated the worldwide case fatality rate between 3 and 4% on 3rd of March, from 2%, earlier.
Recent reports from South Korea show that 2% of people infected with the virus died.
Meanwhile, China added 1280, or 50%, more to its death toll in Wuhan — the epicentre of the outbreak — on 17th April. Now, says China, a total of 3,869 people died from COVID-19 out of the 50,333 infected. The death toll jumped because of the addition of unreported deaths that took place in homes during the early days of the outbreak, as well as a rectification of the numbers reported by hospitals, according to Chinese officials.
India officially puts the percentage of death from new coronavirus at 3.1. The figure, however, varies from place to place. The number remains the highest in Mumbai where nearly 5% of the people tested positive for the virus have died. At the same time, with an estimated rate of less than one percent, the death rate is very low in the southern state of Kerala.
Researchers offer no explanation for this confounding disparity. They, however, assert that there is no evidence that suggests the SARS-CoV-2 virus has mutated to a more lethal form that infects specific populations.
Even as the actual case fatality rates continue to be an enigma, epidemiologists hasten to add that it is often difficult to arrive at a definitive number in the midst of a pandemic.
Experts believe that it is impossible to derive a true figure when we are not sure of the actual number of infections.
Meanwhile, a recent analysis of deaths in 14 countries during the pandemic by Financial Times found that the death toll from coronavirus may be almost 60 percent higher than reported in official counts.
Going by these stats, the global COVID-19 death toll would rise from the current official total of 201,000 to as high as 318,000.
This means the global case fatality rate for the coronavirus is likely above 10%, provided the reported number of infections are reliable.