The mystery of India’s low coronavirus death rate

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NEW DELHI, INDIA––Explanations range from the young population to immunity given by other endemic viral diseases and under-reporting

ndia, with its population of 1.3 billion people, has the world’s second-highest number of coronavirus cases, now more than 7 million, but far fewer reported deaths than other badly-hit countries.

The figures have baffled experts, with explanations ranging from the young population to immunity given by other endemic viral diseases and under-reporting.

Here are some of the questions and theories raised by India’s pandemic statistics:

What are the figures?

India said on Sunday there had been 108,334 fatalities from COVID-19 since the first death was reported in mid-March.

The world’s second-most populous nation has the lowest number of deaths per 100 confirmed cases – the observed case-fatality ratio – among the top 20 worst-affected nations at 1.5 percent, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

In comparison, the United States, the most infected country, has a death rate of 2.8 percent. India’s number of deaths per 100,000 population is 7.73, compared with 64.74 in the United States.

Younger population

Older people suffering from conditions such as diabetes and heart disease have become a particular target of the pandemic but India has a young population with a median age of 28.4, according to the UN World Population Prospects report.

In comparison, France – which has reported almost 700,000 cases and more than 32,000 deaths for a death rate of 4.7 percent – has a median age of 42.3.

Late start, strict lockdown

The Indian government says the first infection was detected on January 30, with numbers passing 100 in mid-March.

By that time, the epidemic was already raging across Europe. Italy had reported more than 24,000 infections and almost 2,000 deaths, while France recorded nearly 5,500 cases and around 150 deaths.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a nationwide lockdown from March 25 that severely limited movement. That gave India time to prepare for the pandemic, while experts say the strict lockdown may have helped doctors learn from the experiences of other countries.

“Many of the treatment protocols were much better stabilized (by that time), whether it was oxygen use or ICU use,” Anand Krishnan, a community medicine professor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, told AFP.

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