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Putting "Covid" in Proportion

Soapbox: Publisher's Perspective | 12 October 2020

I recently was listening to a very erudite interview of British Politician Sir Iain Duncan Smith who said ‘we have lost the balance of how we manage risk ‘claiming that the “obsession” with  Covid-19 has left us with a huge backlog of other medical problems mostly arising from the reluctance of people to visit hospitals because of the ‘covid risk factor’ or sadly, the inability of hospitals to take patients because their resources are focused on Covid. He said he knew of one man who refused to go to hospital after a stroke because of the risk. If this is true then indeed we are seriously unbalanced. 

This led me to think of that honestly we don’t really know the comparative statistics relating to other causes of premature death, so are left shocked, saddened and worried by the daily covid statistics which are rolled out to scare us into increased discipline and adherence to the regulations (PSBB). So I looked up some reliable figures published in 2016 soalready verified and certainly well exceeded by now, to see what else we should be concerned about. 

The WHO Report synopsis is one the next page and reveals some very interesting figures which I will use to try to make relevant comparisons to put the current pandemic in proportion :

  • The Total Population of Indonesia in 2016 was 261,100,000 and total deaths from all causes was : 1,863,000.
  • All the figures in the report are annual so if we simply take 50% representing 6 months (assuming that deaths are evenly spread over the year) we can compare to the Covid stats for April-September (also 6 months). I think this is fair.

At the time of writing (29/9/20) there have been a total of 278,722 Covid-19 cases and 10,473 deaths. 

In the same period in 2016 there were the following number of deaths from the specificly noted causes : 

  • Cardiovascular (heart) problems 326,025
  • Maternal, natal and nutritional problems 195,615
  • Other non-communicable diseases 139,725
  • Cancers of all types 111,780
  • Chronic respiratory diseases (non covid) 55,890
  • Diabetes 55,890
  • Injuries (accidents) 55,890

Now it is quite likely that a) the number of Covid related cases in Indonesia has been under reported, with some saying it could be over 30,000, but even taking that into account these deaths are totally overwhelmed by the above, probably conservative figures, which will have increased for 2020, and we should be taking WHO’s recommendations and suggestions very seriously indeed. 

WHO said back then‘193.900 lives can be saved by 2025 by implementing all the WHO ‘BEST BUY’ LIST.So how to do this? Concentrate on the areas where deaths can be drastically reduced by all the advice we have heard over the years mainly focused on diet and exercise! Easy to see when we list the main risk factors of premature death from non-communicable diseases ie things we are personally responsible for!

These numbers are for Premature Deaths from the following reasons :

  • Physical inactivity   22% 150,928
  • Tobacco Use       (M) 76% (F) 3% (Av) 39% 281,736
  • High blood pressure 23% 166,152
  • Diabetes 7% 50,568
  • Obesity: Adult 7% 50,68, Adolescent 5% 36,120

To be honest I am shocked. There are 281,000 ‘preventable’ deaths caused by smoking and the government has not asked all smokers to self isolate, or to wear masks 24/7? They haven’t made exercise compulsory for all citizens until the “physical inactivity’, “high blood pressure” and “obesity” curves  are flattened And where is the enforced change of diet for the diabetics who surely should be locked down until their symptoms disappear?

Sir Iain Duncan Smith was right when he said that post-covid we will face a tsunami of pent-up non-covid cases, some of whom will be sadly past saving by that time, but what he didn’t say, but I will, is that when there are over 700,000 identifiable deaths preventable by reducing clear risk factors and nothing is done. Why risk ruining the economy over 10,000 or even 30,000 deaths?

We do need to get Covid in proportion, and while continuing to be careful and certainly protect the vulnerable members of society, but we should take heed of the other things we are already dying of and change our lifestyles without delay. Covid is our current obession but it is not even close to our main danger, and surely now we are all more ‘health conscious’ we can try much harder to dractically reduce ‘preventable deaths’.