The Battle of Paraguay
The latest battle between India and China is being fought, not in the Himalayan snows, but in the small South American republic of Paraguay.
Paraguay has been badly hit by the pandemic though its Covid-19 mortality rate is lower than that of most Latin American countries. In recent months the situation has become critical, with 4,000 of Paraguay’s 6,000 deaths occurring in 2021.
During a recent call a normally sensible former professor, whom I respect deeply, informed me that Covid-19 was “yesterday’s story” in India. People were going about their business without worrying about it in the least. The government was keeping the Covid scare alive just to keep protesters off the streets. The disease was on its way out. The massive national vaccination drive was totally unnecessary and only being carried out to protect the investments of pharmaceutical companies.
One of the the two burly men in uniform pointed his gun at me and asked me to get out of the car. Naturally, I complied without argument.
This could have happened in any city in any country, I suppose. But it actually happened in Lagos, Nigeria.
The Nigerian Paradox
My experience was far from exceptional. The Nigerian police has a very bad reputation for both brutality and corruption. According to a 102-page report by Human Rights Watch, Nigerians are more likely to encounter police demanding bribes than enforcing the law. Nigeria was recently rocked by anti-police agitations.
India’s lockdown succeeded in slowing down the rate of growth of Covid-19 infections and so undoubtedly saved many lives. Estimates of lives saved range from 8,000–32,000 (by the distinguished epidemiologist Prof. Gautam Menon & his colleagues) to 120,000–210,000 by BCG (the Boston Consulting Group).
The lockdown also gave India time to stock up ammunition for the Covid War. In March the severe shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) was seriously endangering healthcare staff; now India produces 600,000 PPE kits a day and is thinking of exporting them. In mid March, India was testing less than 100 people per day and…
The Epidemic Equation
Every epidemic, including Covid-19, turns around a single equation,
R = N x p x (1-f).
N is the average number of persons who come into contact with an infected person while she is infectious;
p is the probability of the virus being transmitted during a contact;
f is the fraction of the population immune to the infection.
When an infected person comes into contact with an uninfected person she spreads the virus to the contact with probability p; the contact may either be immune or susceptible. The probability of being immune is f while that of…
“We have gone quite ahead towards winning this war against Covid-19”, claimed Mr. Harsh Vardhan the health minister of India on 30th April.
Is he right? And does India’s death rate of 3.2% indeed support the minister as he claims?
The observed death rate or Case Fatality Rate is simple to understand and easy to calculate. It is determined by simply taking the number of reported Covid-19 deaths and dividing it by the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases.
The Covid-19 crisis caught most countries unprepared. PPEs (personal protective equipment) for healthcare staff, masks, ventilators, isolation facilities and ICU beds were in short supply in cities across the world from Milan to New York.
This unpreparedness has undoubtedly resulted in a vast number of avoidable deaths.
Why did countries not prepare?
When we talk of countries we really mean governments. The invisible hand of the free market is great at providing a profusion of both necessities and luxuries at ordinary times. But it has no built-in mechanism to take care of pandemics. A profit seeking private healthcare provider may…
“No Worse than the Common Flu”
Many home remedies allegedly offer protection against Covid-19.
It is claimed that citrus fruits, garlic, sunshine and fresh air improve immunity and so reduce the chance of Covid-19 infection. I am not sure to what extent the claims have been established through rigorous controlled experiments, but obviously these do no harm and might very well do good.
The Peril of Probability
Fiona Lowenstein shouldn’t have been there.
Fiona was a 26-year old woman, living in New York, who worked out six times a week, did not smoke and had no prior autoimmune or respiratory conditions. She had certainly not expected to be hospitalized with Covid-19 when she went to bed on Sunday 15th March night. It was true that she had been having a fever and headache since Friday night. However, she was not unduly concerned and planned to stay at home and catch up with her work during her illness.
I am a Covid-19 addict.
I find myself compulsively gathering information regarding the Coronavirus outbreak when I should be spending time at work. It gives me the kind of guilty pleasure that I suppose a porn or chocolate addict gets from devouring forbidden items.
What are the reasons for the addiction? First of all, of course, there is the fascination of the macabre — the thrill of watching a disaster movie playing out in real-time. It is Contagion over again except that this time it is happening not on the movie screen but around you.
Then again, the media and…
I have spent over 30 years in academia and industry exploring how to use mathematical methods to solve real world problems