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Questions about Covid-19 yet to be answered

Questions about Covid-19 yet to be answered

Microsoft's Bill Gates and Bangladesh ace cricketer Shakib Al Hasan are reported to have got Covid-19 almost at the same time. The co-founder of Microsoft and the richest man on the planet until Jeff Bezos (now lost the pole position to Elon Musk) deposed him had taken the booster dose but still tested positive albeit with mild symptoms. He is one of the 59,959 persons in the US, who have been infected by coronavirus on May 11 last. Shakib also has his American connection in getting the disease. He just returned from the US to join the Bangladesh cricket team for the Test matches against Sri Lanka. Tested twice, he proved positive and is likely to be ruled out for the first Test to begin on May 15.

Worldwide the number of corona cases was recorded at 325,138 on the same day. The figure of infections is not negligible. The trend for the past week was mixed with most of the countries either recording a small rise in and fall of cases. But still people are hardly scared. The fear psychosis has waned to the minimum. Why? The reason is the lowest number of fatalities. Only 774 of the 0.325 million Covid-19 patients died on the day globally. Compared with the mortality rates of the peak period of the pandemic in different countries and regions, this average global fatality rate is much lower. Notably, against Europe's 101,148 fresh cases, Asia's share was higher with 155,273 cases but against Europe's 465 deaths, Asia had only 175 deaths.

Prevalence of Covid-19 and related deaths in Africa have, as before, remained the lowest. This has belied the expert opinions and prediction of a worst case scenario that were to unfold there. To many if it is not a mystery, it surely is quite intriguing. But a closer look may explain why it was and still is so. Overall, the least developed continent has a population with an average age of 19.7 years and 60 per cent of them belong to the age group of below 25. Young people have been less vulnerable to Covid-19 everywhere. Then 59 per cent of Africans live in rural areas and rural people have limited interactions because they travel less and hardly come in contact with foreigners. Among African countries South Africa, both a destination of foreign travellers and a departure point for travel abroad registered the highest number of cases and deaths. No wonder, on May 11, the country recorded 7,523 fresh cases and 26 deaths on the day under review.

South Korea, surprisingly, have been struggling to bring down cases although initially its success in containing the disease was notable. On the day it registered 43,699 cases and 29 deaths ---the figures surpassed by the developed countries in Europe such as Germany, France and Italy with infection counts respectively of 72,327; 56,449 and 56,015. The US also had an infection count of 59,954 and Japan, another developed and highly disciplined society did not lag far behind with 39,041 cases. Then US had the highest fatality of 279, Italy and France having a share of 158 and 123 respectively.

There is an unmistakable pattern of vulnerability of people living in different regions of the world to Covid-19. It appears that the Americans and Europeans, of them the white race in particular are more vulnerable to the pathogen and then come the Asians to be followed lastly by the black Africans. The Mongoloid among the Asians seem to be less vulnerable than the Aryans and the indigenous people who have fewer interactions with the outside world. But the aged population in Japan has shown greater immunity to the disease compared to others. South Korea's is also a geriatric population like that of Japan but although both managed early coronavirus onslaughts quite well, they are now among the countries with the highest incidences. Can it be that they opened up earlier than achieving herd immunity through mass vaccination?

The Omicron variety, however, can evade vaccination with the course completed even by a booster dose. Bill Gates is the shining example of this. There are two extreme views about vaccines ---one of this is that vaccines can guarantee immunity against Covid-19 and the other is that the preventive property as claimed by the pharmaceutical giants is nothing but a ploy by them to do hefty business. The fact is none of the vaccines developed so far is perfect because they had to be used before attaining the level of perfection of other vaccines now in use for combating a host of diseases. Yet nothing could be better than meeting an emergency of saving millions of lives. Had the vaccines not administered, the toll of the worst pandemic human race has ever suffered would be many times higher. Economies would have crumbled beyond recovery.

Now the question that should reasonably agitate people's minds is the efficacy or not of the booster dose. How long will it give immunity to a person? This much is understood that even if it cannot prevent a variant like Omicron, it does not allow health conditions to deteriorate. But will this immunity last for life or there will be a need for another course of vaccination after a certain period? Then there is the more troubling question of further mutation of the pathogen giving rise to an extraordinarily virulent variant. As long as coronavirus continues to remain in an epidemic form, such mutations cannot be ruled out. So the pathogen must either get incapacitated to the extent of losing its power to mutate or a most effective vaccine allowing no evasion by the virus developed.


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