Covid 19: A note to my young friends!

Covid 19: A note to my young friends!

Covid 19: A note to my young friends!

The trigger for this note is the resignation of two of my young colleagues who come from small towns in Maharashtra. They don’t want to return to Pune due to fear of COVID-19. Unfortunately, they can’t work from home as they are in production and therefore must return to Pune to keep their job. Their parents and close relatives are a major influence on the decision.

While we were trying to convince their parents, we got the news of a second lockdown in Pune. Bengaluru, etc. Whether it is due to their own fears or  government actions, a large number of people have continued to be without a livelihood for the last 4 months.

This got me thinking: if the COVID situation is really so severe that young people are sacrificing their jobs, knowing fully well that getting a new job won’t be easy in this environment,?

Before I move further, let me quote Prof. Aswath Damodaran (Professor of Finance at Stern University, New York) from his book ‘Narrative and Numbers’ :  We relate to and remember stories better than we do numbers, but storytelling can lead us into fantasyland quickly!” He argues that narratives without numbers and numbers without narratives are not of much value.

So let’s try to understand if this narrative of fear is supported by numbers:

  • As is clear from this Worldometer screenshot pasted alongside, the number of active patients in India today is 3.9 lakh (0.39 million). This is approximately. 35% of the number that flashes on our TV screens or in social media feeds. Isn’t this a lot less serious?
  • # of deaths: 27,514, or about 2.45% of cumulative positive cases. Alternatively, one can also say that for every 100 people who tested positive, more than 97 survived.
  • Whenever I try to make the two arguments listed above, the counterargument I often get is that this 11 lakh (1.1 million) is a very low number and that the actual number is much higher. Fair enough! Let’s go further.
  • Now the question is, do we have an estimate of really how many people are infected by Covid-19 in India ?
  • The answer to above question is estimated by Dr. Velumani (founder of Thyrocare Technologies – Thyrocare is actively engaged in COVID testing efforts in India)
  • Based on the antibody test results, he estimated the total number of infections in India to be around 18 crore (180 million).
  • Coming from a person of Dr. Velumani’s reputation, I would give some credibility to these estimates.
  • Shocked? More to fear? Not really. Let’s analyse why this 18 crore estimate is actually a good news.
  • Using 18 crores as a base, the death rate percentage now translates into 0.015%, or a 99.98% chance of survival.
  • Taking two extremes into consideration, we get a survival rate range of somewhere between 97.5% and 99.98%. Less scary now?
  • The COVID death per million (DPM) in India is about 20, whereas in the western world the figure is about 400 DPM. This further reinforces the fact that India is blessed and that our high immunity is saving us from this disease.
  • Also, this 18 crore figure suggests that many people have already developed antibodies (immunity) against viruses. ‘Free immunisation’ as Dr. Velumani calls it.

I am not saying that precautions are not needed. I strongly emphasize that we need to embrace social distancing, masking, and sanitization (SMS) in a big way. However, with these precautions, we must move forward.

With the help of this post, I would like to request that my young friends out there please don’t sacrifice your careers or livelihoods simply by going by the media headlines or WhatsApp university knowledge. If you are still having your job or source of income in this environment, you are blessed. Don’t waste this blessing.


PS: Dr. Velumani has also posted lessons learned by him in the last 6 months. I find it to be a great read. Adding below. Please pay special attention to points 22 and onward. Very interesting.

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