Can Pakistan’s low COVID-19 death rate mean the novel virus is less virulent in South Asia?

The lower death rate in countries like Pakistan and India was enviable when there had been earlier concerns those countries could be hit hardest.

south asia

The death toll of Pakistan from Covid-19 is below early predictions, raising the possibility the pandemic is somehow proving less virulent in South Asia.

The Minister for Planning, Development, Reforms and Special Initiatives, Asad Umar, said, “On the one hand we are observing emerging data that is proving that the health impact is less destructive than it has been in developed countries. However, the economic impact is far more disastrous as compared to those countries.”

South Asian Countries

When COVID-19 first emerged, South Asian countries and many other developing nations were thought ripe for a devastating wave of the disease and death because of their poor healthcare, dense population, and widespread lung disease.

Nearly seven weeks since Pakistan reported its first death, the country recently saw its deadliest day, with 26 reported dead on Wednesday. However, the number is dominated by hundreds of deaths per day seen in developed countries like Spain, France, Italy, the UK, and the US.

According to official data, the country’s intensive care beds have not been overwhelmed and comparatively few Covid-19 patients are critically ill.

A virologist at the University of Reading, Prof Ian Jones, said, “The lower death rate in countries like Pakistan and India was enviable when there had been earlier concerns those countries could be hit hardest.”

Young Population

Jones added, “Pakistan has more than 60% of the population below the age of 30. The virus severity in the US and Europe is a bell-shaped curve very heavily tilted towards older populations and these just don’t exist to the same extent in developing countries.”

Many experts have credited the lower deaths to Pakistan and India locking down more quickly than worse affected countries.

As of May 5, Pakistan has reported 486 dead and 21,501 cases in a population of more than 220 million.

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