Estimate puts 1.7 billion people worldwide at risk of severe Covid-19 – dpa international


Social distancing markers on floor of Dublin supermarket (Simon Roughneen)

Social distancing markers on floor of Dublin supermarket (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Some 1.7 billion people have at least one underlying health condition that “could increase their risk of severe Covid-19 if infected,” according to a British medical journal.

Estimates published in The Lancet Global Health point to heightened risks from the coronavirus pandemic in regions with relatively high numbers of older people, such as Europe, and in regions with a higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS, such as Africa.

Using data from 188 countries, the authors of the report estimate that 66 per cent of the world’s over-70s have an underlying condition – such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease – that could leave them vulnerable should they contract the new coronavirus.

That percentage drops to 23 among working-age people, with only 5 per cent of under-20s estimated to have developed such a condition.

The report estimates that 16 per cent of people in Africa have at least one such underlying condition – a number that rises to 28 per cent in North America and 31 per cent in Europe.

4 per cent of the world’s population – 349 million people – could require hospitalisation if infected.

The estitmates published in the report could assist authorities in countries that are easing lockdowns, according to Andrew Clark of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), who was part of the research team.

“This might involve advising people with underlying conditions to adopt social distancing measures appropriate to their level of risk, or prioritising them for vaccination in the future,” he said.

Though reporting and testing regimes vary between countries, nearly 8 million confirmed coronavirus infections have been recorded, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University.

The pandemic has faded across much of Europe in recent weeks, though surges are ongoing in South Asia and Latin America.

More than 434,000 people have died, with country-level data showing elderly people making up most of the fatalities, many of them in nursing or care homes.

“Age-based thresholds for shielding could play a role in reducing deaths,” said the LSHTM’s Rosalind Eggo.

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