By Ardhendu Shekhar Sarangi in Bhubaneswar, May 22, 2021: How have countries fared in managing the Covid Pandemic? How have we fared? An assessment has to be made in terms of outcomes only, and not on the basis of subjective impressions. And what would be the metrics? One measure certainly would be the extent to which the spread of the disease could be controlled in a country. The lower the proportion of the population contracting the disease, the better, we can say, the containment measures were. A second measure could be the percentage of people who recovered from the affliction, or conversely, who could not recover and succumbed.

The lower this figure, the better we can say the healthcare system’s performance was. A third measure, which in a way is more comprehensive, is the proportion of the population, say the number of people per million population, who died as a result of the pandemic. The lower this figure, the better the country’s overall performance can be said to be. This will be the outcome of the total efforts, both for containment and in providing medical care for the afflicted to recover. The Chart below presents the outcomes of the Covid management efforts in some countries. The figures are cumulative totals as on 14 May, 2021.



(in Million)



(i) (ii) (iii (iv) (v) (vi) (vii)
INDIA 1,380 2,40,46,229 17,425 2,54,192 1.06% 184
USA 331 3,30,17,234 99,750 5,89,396 1.78% 1,780
FRANCE 65 58,00,170 89,233 1,06,935 1.84% 1,645
RUSSIA 146 49,13,439 33,653 1,14,723 2.33% 786
UK 67 44,44,631 66,337 1,27,640 2.87% 1,905
ITALY 60 41,31,078 68,851 1,23,544 2.99% 2,059
SPAIN 47 35,92,751 76,441 79,205 2.20% 1,685
GERMANY 84 35,35,354 42,087 85,481 2.41% 1,017
BRAZIL 213 1,53,61,686 72,120 4,28,256 2.79% 2,010
MEXICO 129 23,75,115 18,411 2,19,590 9.24% 1,702
TURKEY 84 50,83,996 60,523 43,821 0.86% 522
INDONESIA 273 17,31,652 6,343 47,716 2.75% 175
PAKISTAN 221 8,70,703 3,939 19,336 2.22% 87
BANGLADESH 165 7,78,687 4,719 12,076 1.55% 73
SOUTH AFRICA 59 16,05,252 27,207 55,012 3.42% 932

The bottom line is the number of people per million who lost their lives to the pandemic. In our country it is still below 200;  while most developed or emerging countries have lost between four to ten times the number of people per million. Only our South Asian neighbours Pakistan and Bangladesh have fared significantly better.

Our achievement in containment of the spread of the disease is also not bad. In our country the spread is contained at 17,425 in a population of a million, whereas in most of the other countries, the spread has been much larger, 3 to 5 times this number per million.   Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia are the only countries in the list who have fared better.

Significantly, where our performance is most impressive is in the treatment outcomes. Only 1.06 per cent of the afflicted persons have succumbed to the disease in our country, whereas in countries with much better healthcare facilities the outcomes of the treatment provided has not been that good. Only Turkey has fared better. The mortality rate expressed as the ratio of the Number Died and the Number Recovered is much higher in the developed countries being in the range of 1.78 to 3.42. In Mexico it is over 9%. Our poor health infrastructure and the much talked about collapse of the healthcare system notwithstanding, we have been able to help a significantly larger percentage of people to recover as compared to countries with much better infrastructure facilities. Should we play down this accomplishment of our Doctors and Healthcare workers? Should we not be proud of them?

What about the horrific sights of multiple pyres at the cremation grounds and the patients lying around in the hospital floors for want of beds then – the imagery of death and suffering the media have been projecting? The enormity of the death toll as highlighted in the media should also be seen in relation to the number of death which takes place in the country in the normal course each day. The crude death rate of India’s population is 7.3 deaths per 1000 population per year; which simply put means that 7.3 out of every thousand Indians die each year in the normal course. Now, given a population of 138 crores, the crude death rate of 7.3 means that 27,600 people die each day ‘normally’. (138,00,00,000 ÷ 1000 x 7.3 ÷ 365).

What happened in the Corona year? Let us first examine the situation in the first Wave. A total of 1,58,615 people were reported to have died of Corona infection between 15 March, 2020 and 15 March, 2021, implying an average death toll of 435 per day. (A mere 41 deaths on 2020 April 01 and 118 deaths on 15 March, 2021; peaking in between on 18 September, 2020 at 1221). Covid thus contributed an additional 435 to the figure of daily average deaths in the country during this one year period. This is a 1.65% increase in the average daily normal deaths (27,600) in the country. If we consider the period from 1 August to 19 October, 2021 when the First Wave was at its peak, we find a total number of 77,826 people died in these 80 days. This gives an average 973 deaths each day. Even this was 3.5% of the normal daily deaths of 27,600. In other words, one extra death occurred due to Covid for every 30 normal deaths. This by any stretch of imagination could not have created any overcrowding at the cremation grounds.

Is the actual situation greatly different during the current Second Wave? Let the figures speak for themselves. Between 16 March 2021 and 14 May 2021, a total of 1,07,350 deaths have resulted from the pandemic. This gives an average daily death of 1789. This is 6.5% of the average daily normal deaths. This means one extra death for every 15 normal deaths. Again, not an increase which will lead to overcrowding at the cremation grounds.

We must go into further details in search of the truth and view the situation at the peak of the Second Wave. The Second Wave, by all accounts, is now receding and hence we will capture the worst scenario by looking at the recent peak. The Second Wave peaked during 16 April, 2021 and 15 May,21 and appears now to be on the decline. Most ugly scenes like people dying on the roads and multiple funeral pyres raging at cremation grounds highlighted in the media were from this period. During this 30 day period about 95,980 people lost their lives due to Covid which means an average of 3200 daily deaths from the pandemic. This works out to 11.60% of the average daily normal deaths in the country. In other words, there were 12 extra deaths from Covid for every 100 ‘normal’ deaths; or say 3 extra people died from Covid for every 25 people dying in the normal course. Such numbers also can not lead to a scenario being suggested by the media by showing the multiple raging pyres at the cremation grounds.

The problem was that the spread of the disease and the deaths were not evenly distributed throughout the country. Many States even performed better and turned in numbers which were better than the national averages, which they were fairly good as we have seen already. But there were some States, Union Territories and cities which performed very poorly and presented a miserable sight. Their hospitals and cremation grounds were pictures of misery for a limited period. The media whose editorial policy it suited to highlight this misery saw an ‘opportunity’ in this. They took full advantage by using the power of the visuals and strong language describing the misery for presenting a poor picture of India, obliterating the reality of superior management of the pandemic by the country. The media also regaled in the mudslinging by some of the country’s politicians who themselves were to a great extent responsible for the poor performance of the territories in their charge and were desperate to shift the blame. We will have occasion to discuss which areas of the country have performed well and which have performed poorly in managing the pandemic so far.

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of