Young people are more likely to be carriers of COVID-19 than they think, this is what is revealed by the analysis of Andreas Backhaus, a researcher and economist. His findings were published in Medium last March 13.

Similar intensity, different segments

In Backhaus’ analysis, he compared the populations of Italy and South Korea, who at the time of his analysis has around the same number of recorded cases —  8.036 in Italy and 7,134 in South Korea.

Age is observed to be highly related to the number of confirmed cases, making it a good predictor of the latter.  Given this, for his analysis, Backhaus divided the confirmed cases among age groups.

In South Korea, the age group, 20-29, has the highest number of confirmed cases as 29.9%. In contrast, those who are 70 years old above have the highest number of confirmed cases in Italy at 41.3%.

On the whole, it is clear that as far as the recorded cases are concerned, the younger population is more infected in South Korea. Meanwhile, it is the older population that is more infected with COVID-19 in Italy.

While the level of infection in Italy and South Korea may be relatively similar, there is a sharp contrast in the age segment that was infected.

A critical implication

While this is an interesting observation, how is it important to the current pandemic? This differing factor created a huge impact on the case fatality rates of the two countries.

Simply put, case fatality rate (CFR) is the proportion of fatalities relative to the number of confirmed cases. This is not the same with the mortality rate, which is the proportion of fatalities relative to the whole population.

While mortality rate is the commonly reported figure in databases like that of Johns Hopkins CSSE , CFR is a more useful figure in assessing how much of the confirmed cases would lead to deaths.

In South Korea, the CFR is about 0.8%. In Italy, the CFR is 6.6%. This makes Italy’s CFR more than 8 times higher than that of South Korea. In spite of the similar number of confirmed cases, Italy is clearly more negatively impacted by the COVID-19 hit.

To make things worse, there is also a difference in the way Italy and South Korea have been conducting COVID-19 tests. South Korea has been practically testing everyone, however, Italy’s testing varies depending on the region with some doing extensive tests and some lagging.

This means that young people who are less likely to show symptoms may be asymptomatic carriers of the disease.  This means that the figure in the younger age segments in Italy may be higher than what is currently known by medical practitioners.

This analysis further emphasizes the need for social distancing, since the younger population may be unintentionally spreading the disease to the extremely vulnerable older population. This also points towards the need for an intensified protection of the elderly in terms of health care.

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