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To what extent is COVID-19 an “old person’s” disease?

Updated: May 20, 2020

By Lucia Dore

The news is dominated by what COVID-19 is doing to our health- personally and economically. Many countries were unprepared for the crisis, although warnings were given back in 2015. (Bill Gates was one person who issued concerns). Why is this?

In the US, now the epicentre of COVID-19 some 240,000 deaths are predicted to occur during the period of the virus. No one is certain how long that will be.

In Italy and Spain, the increase in cases is reducing daily. It’s the UK which has become the epicentre for COVID-19 in Europe. The number of UK deaths increased by 621 on 6 April bringing the total to 4,934, including 29 patients without any underlying health conditions.

In all countries, the number of deaths among people younger than 65, who are in their 20’s, 30’s 40’s and 50’s, is increasing.

In the US the numbers of people below 60s are increasing rapidly. There have been four deaths of people who have worked for the NHS, a 13 year old boy, with no underlying health conditions, and a five year old boy. However, people post 70 are more likely to be hospitalised in the UK, the statistics show. (About 80% of fatalities are among the over-65s).

In NZ, at the Prime Minister’s (Jacinda Arden) daily briefing, she has said that the biggest carriers of COVID-19 are those aged between 20 and 29- and people may not always know that they have it. They might be asymptomatic. It’s those over 70 who are most of risk however and must stay indoors. So far there’s been about 1100 cases of the novel coronavirus and one death- a 71-year-old woman with an underlying health condition.

The death rate and number of infections may not seem high compared with other countries, but it has warranted a four-week lockdown. The country is in the second week now and the number of cases is diminishing daily. Most of the cases can be traced to overseas travel. The aim is to eliminate COVID-19.

Other countries are not so lucky. India, with a population of 1.3 billion, has so many more people to control. A lockdown is less easy. There are also a number of people from around the world trying to get back to their home countries. They are filling their time in various ways, some by singing and drawing. (I have posted an example). The UK has announced that seven flights will bring British nationals in India back home, adding that more flights will follow soon.

How should governments decide how long lockdowns should be? The world economy, and the economy of individual countries, is being devastated.

To go back to my initial question. Why were so many countries unprepared with a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators? (America’s and the UK’s government are trying to fast track their production).

Have governments been slow to respond because COVID-19 was flagged as an “old person’s” disease? Old people seem to be defined as being over 70. They were the first to be told to stay at home all around the world because they are deemed to be “vulnerable”. However, as we now know, people of all ages can die of the disease. You certainly don’t have to be an “old person” to contract COVID-19 or even die from it. But the older age group are more vulnerable.

Photo: By a Brit stranded in India with coronavirus


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