Novel corona virus is a bugbear and a wraith looming all over the world these days, like a specter scaring and mortifying everyone. In my recent flight from Hawaii to San Francisco, I saw every third passenger wearing a white mask, and at the busy San Francisco airport I saw even more wearing the same.
In Fremont town in California, where I am presently staying, many parents have temporarily stopped sending their children to school for fear of their catching an infection. But is it such a threat to mankind as it is being portrayed to be?
Ever since it was detected in Wuhan in China about a month back, novel corona virus has killed only a little over 1000 people, mostly in China, and infected a little over 40,000 people. Stray cases have occurred in other parts of the world too. But what are a thousand deaths in a country of over 1.3 billion people?
Car accidents kill 1.25 million people every year (i.e. 3287 persons every day), and injure 20-50 million people annually.
Flu (influenza) kills 646,000 people worldwide every year, as per U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, i.e. almost 2000 per day.
In 2016, over 200 million got malaria, which resulted in about 700,000 deaths (i.e. about 2000 per day).
About 400 million people are infected by dengue annually, which kills about 22,000 people, mostly children.
1.5 million people die of tuberculosis every year
3.8 million people die of diabetes annually.
In 2017, 9.6 million people in the world died of cancer
In 2018, 820 million people in the world went to bed hungry. In India 48% children below 5 years are malnourished, and many will remain stunted all their lives, as per Global Hunger Index and UNICEF reports. One can only guess the number of starvation deaths.
I am not belittling the seriousness of novel corona virus, but wish to state that its danger has been exaggerated and made a bogeyman
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.