It should be apparent by now that COVID-19 is far from being the “deadly” disease that people believe it is. Any disease can be described as “deadly.” Influenza is deadly. Every year 3 to 5 million people contract flu, resulting in about 290,000 to 650,000 deaths. In the last ten years over three million people have died from the flu. When was the last time you heard the flu being described as “deadly”? We used to laugh at it and give it funny names.

There were an estimated 228 million cases of malaria in 2018 and the number of deaths was just over 400,000. Four million people died of malaria in the last ten years. Even though the Venezuelans have been bringing it in for some time now, who is taking on malaria in T&T? Have you ever heard a single government official say they are closing our borders because malaria is “deadly”?

There are over 250,000 people with diabetes in T&T. Our mortality rate from diabetes is the fifth highest in the world, 116 per 100,00 population. Over 1800 people die from diabetes every year in T&T. Have you ever heard diabetes being called “deadly”?

COVID-19 is a serious disease because it is a new virus and we have no immunity to it. Lots of people can quickly get ill and overwhelm the health system. It’s essential to try to control it.

But let’s get real. If you have a hundred people with COVID, half of them will be asymptomatic and don’t know they have it. Thirty of the remaining fifty will have mild symptoms, cough and fever.

They stay home and get better on their own. The remaining 20 might end up in hospital. Five of those will need intensive care and one or two will die. These are serious figures but not as bad as we have been led to believe.

When the media repeatedly describes a disease as “deadly,” day in, day out, in print, on the radio and on TV, people latch on to this and it becomes a self–fulfilling prophecy. “COVID is a serious disease. It kills people!”

Of course it does. That’s what diseases do. How many people has it killed in T&T? As of writing, thirty three. In six months thirty three people have died from Covid-19. Thirty three out of over 2230 known cases. That works out to 1.5 per cent, ie of every 100 cases of COVID-19 in T&T, just over one person dies. If we were testing properly, as PAHO recommends, there would be many more cases detected and the percentage would drop.

And who is dying? Is there any special group? The truth is we, the public, are not sure. All we are told is the same old tired mantra, “all protocols followed” and “adult male (or female) with co-morbidities.” Nothing on the age group. Nothing on the co-morbidities. Nothing on the geography.

Ignorance breeds fear, you know.

In T&T most of the important stats on COVID-19 are not being published. In Jamaica and Barbados there are daily counts of the tests done and the number of positives. Ages of the patients who have expired together with the accompanying diseases are daily available.

Six months after the outbreak began, in the richest island in the Caribbean, we still do not know how many people were tested in the past 24 hours, far less how many people tested positive.

What we do know comes from international figures. Take mortality. According to the CDC, between February 1 and August 29 in the USA, 170,566 people died from COVID-19. In the same period 1,841,678 Americans died of other causes. One in ten died from COVID-19. Sixty were under 15 years of age. Children rarely die from COVID-19! The number dying goes up by each ten year grouping, eg 1,300 in the 25 to 34 age group. 9,000 thousand in the 45 to 54 age group etc. At age 65, it explodes, over 36,000 in the 65 to 74 group. Over 45,000 in the 75 to 84 and over 53,000 for the over 85’s.

Most COVID-19 deaths, 79 out of a hundred occur in the over 65’s.

COVID-19 is a deadly disease for old people, especially overweight old people with diabetes and high blood pressure. They are the ones we should we protecting. They are the ones we should be shielding.

This is nothing new. We have known this from China days. For some reason it has been forgotten by the man in the street.

A word about treatment. We learned last week from Mr Marcos Espinal, Director of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis at PAHO that our vaunted practice of hospitalising everyone with a positive test was unnecessary. I made the same comment in my April 21 column: “Why in fact is the government insistent on hospitalising healthy, relatively asymptomatic people who go to the Health Centre for minor complaints and end up in hospital? “

Without asking the necessary questions, the press seemed to assume that it was for “treatment.” Since then anyone admitted is being “treated.” Treated with what? There is no treatment for asymptomatic or mild COVID-19. Unless you consider honey and lime for the cough and panadol for fever as “treatment”?

Our population has been led to believe that a positive COVID-19 test means high risk of death and that you have to go to hospital for “treatment.” This was wrong from the beginning and has created a climate of fear.

One is left to wonder if this was due to lack of knowledge of the disease, an overreaction, not thinking the management through or something else.