As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim the lives of thousands of people worldwide on a daily basis, the situation back in Malta seems to have quietened down.
However, we can’t forget the six people who have lost their lives in the last weeks… and what their deaths might mean for the rest of the island.
At the time of writing, there have been a total of 22 people in Malta aged 80 or over who tested positive for COVID-19. Out of those, four people have died; a 92-year-old woman, an 84-year-old woman, a 96-year-old woman and an 81-year-old man.
This means that, for Malta’s COVID-19 patients aged 80 or over, the mortality rate is 18.2%, just a few decimal points away from one in every five people.
That statistic might look quite worrying, and it doesn’t get much better when we decrease the age. With Malta’s second COVID-19 death being a 79-year-old man on the morning of 9th April, the mortality rate for any patient aged 75 or over (of whom there’s been 30) is 16.7%.
But since we’re looking at percentages and statistics, how does Malta’s mortality rate in these age groups stack up when compared to two main hotspots?
Let’s primarily look at Italy and the United States of America, easily two of the worst hit countries when it comes to total cases and total deaths in Europe and the entire world.
The latest estimates put Italy’s mortality rate for COVID-19 patients aged 75 and older at 24.35%, with this jumping to 30% when only the 80+ bracket is considered. For context, that’s more than one in every three patients.
Meanwhile, the US – which is leading the globe with a worrying total of 1,680,000 total cases and nearly 100,000 deaths – seems to be hovering at mortality rates of 9.4% for people aged 75 and over, and 14.8% for those aged 80 or over.
That would put Malta’s mortality rate among its elderly COVID-19 patients lower than Europe’s first hotspot, but higher than the world’s worst hit country.
“It’s important to stress that the Case Fatality Rate simply represents the number of deaths divided by the number of confirmed cases and does not tell us the true risk of death, which is much harder to estimate,” statistics-crunchers Our World In Data explained in a blog entry on CFR.
“The CFR changes over time, and differences between countries do not necessarily reflect real differences in the risk of dying from COVID-19. Instead, they may reflect differences in the extent of testing, or the stage a country is in its trajectory through the outbreak.”
For example, Italy has long been considered a problematic outlier in this statistic, with the country’s ageing population and its cultural tendency for young people to continue living in the same household as their elders frequently seen as two fatal variables.
Meanwhile, as far as the CFR for the whole population is concerned – that is, the ratio between total confirmed deaths and total confirmed cases – Malta thankfully ranks substantially lower than all of the above countries and even the world average.
We are, however, a whole half of a percent higher than Iceland, the only country on the list with a similar (actually slightly smaller) population than ours.
While the latter fact is easily dismissable through arguments of population density, the issue still remains that our island’s most vulnerable need to be protected, now more than ever. We can’t afford to let our grandparents and elders become statistics, especially worrying ones at that.
Statistics like this are bound to constantly change, with more active cases, recoveries and deaths pouring in every couple of hours from all over the globe.
There’s also the much-debated issue of comparing thousands of deaths to single digit ones.
However, regardless of the subjective opinions on the use of ratios for such matters, the math stands and has been applied by authorities before to compare other things, such as Malta’s global success in its testing numbers.