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Countries with fewer CT scanners, ventilators suffer high COVID-19 fatality
  • By Kwak Sung-sun
  • Published 2020.03.31 15:57
  • Updated 2020.03.31 15:57
  • comments 0

Computed cosmography (CT) scanners for lung images and ventilators are the most necessary medical equipment in the ongoing new coronavirus pandemic.

CT scanners are crucial to determine a patient’s condition accurately during COVID-19 treatment, and ventilators save severe COVID-19 patients. The OECD members show a variety of numbers in CT scanner holdings.

How did the number of CT scanners affect the COVID-19 death rate, then?

According to the OECD’s health data in 2019, Korea had 38.2 CT scanners per 1 million people as of 2017, 10.4 percentage points higher than the OECD average of 27.8. The nation’s CT scanner holdings increased from 36.9 per 1 million people in 2012 to 38.2, up by 1.3, in 2017. The OECD average increased three from 24.8 during the same period.

Among countries with most outbreaks of COVID-19, Italy, which reported the second most confirmed cases after the U.S. and a mortality rate exceeding 10 percent, had 34.7 CT scanners per 1 million people, higher than the OECD average of 27.8.

However, Spain, which ranked fourth in confirmed cases recording a 7.9 percent fatality, had only 18.6 CT machines, and France ranked sixth in confirmed cases with a 6.2 percent mortality rate, 17.4. The two countries had far fewer CT scanners per 1 million people, compared to the OECD average of 27.8.

In contrast, Germany and Switzerland, ranking fifth and ninth in confirmed cases in Europe with a fatality rate of 0.8 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively, had 35.1 and 39.3 CT scanners, respectively. The CT scanner numbers were way above the OECD average, and approached that of Korea.

In OECD countries, where more than 2,000 COVID-19 patients were reported, the number of CT holdings affected the death rate.

The Netherlands, which has 9,762 confirmed cases, a level similar to that of Korea, reported a 6.5 percent mortality rate as of Sunday. The country had 13.5 CT scanners per 1 million people, significantly below the OECD average of 27.8.

On the other hand, Austria, with 7,597 COVID-19 patients with a 0.9 percent fatality rate, had 28.6 CT scanners per 1 million, slightly higher than the OECD average.

In Australia, which added 650 new confirmed cases on Sunday, only 0.4 percent of 3,143 COVID-19 patients died. The country had a whopping number of 64.4 CT scanners per 1 million people.

The simple comparison of CT scanner numbers may not be accurate to predict a fatality rate.

However, Span, France and the Netherlands, which showed a high fatality rate, had fewer CT machines than the OECD average. Korea, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Australia with a low death rate had more CT equipment than the OECD average.

Examining the number of ventilators, which have a significant impact on the treatment of severe COVID-19 patients, also helps reveal the difference between countries with high and low death rates concerning COVID-19.

Government data showed that Korea had 9,823 ventilators or about 19 per 100,000 people. Germany, which is containing COVID-19 well in Europe, has 25,000 ventilators, or 30 per 100,000 people.

The U.S. has about 160,000 ventilators, including 60,000 for high-performance intensive care, and 100,000 for general purposes. This translates to 48 per 100,000 people.

However, Italy, France, and the U.K., where a larger share of COVID-19 patients die, had relatively fewer ventilators. Italy had 8.3 ventilators per 100,000 people, France, 7.7, and the U.K., 12.

‘MERS experience helped Korea lower COVID-19 fatality rate’

Infectious disease specialists attributed Korea’s relatively lower COVID-19 fatality rate to the nation’s securing medical equipment during the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in 2015.

“The COVID-19 outbreak was evenly distributed around the world, so there should be various reasons why each country has different death rates,” said Kim Woo-ju, a professor of the Infectious Disease Department at Korea University College of Medicine. “In particular, the proportion of asymptomatic COVID-19 patients, the share of those in their 20s, the percentage of elderly people aged 65 or more, and the level of the healthcare system might have affected the fatality rate.”

Korea’s holdings of excessive medical supplies, including CT and MRI scanners, seemed to have helped the nation contain the COVID-19 outbreak, he added.

The public’s level of personal hygiene is a significant factor affecting the fatality rate, and the MERS experience gave Korean people valuable lessons about personal hygiene, Kim noted.

Gauging the fatality rate in late stages where all COVID-19 patients recover will provide more accurate data, Kim noted. “Until more than 9,000 COVID-19 patients fully recover, we should not be complacent about our low fatality rate,” he added.


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