The Malta Independent 8 April 2020, Wednesday

Wide spread of Coronavirus could have effect on Malta’s age demographic – Vincent Marmara

Albert Galea Friday, 20 March 2020, 07:53 Last update: about 18 days ago

A wide spread of Coronavirus across the Maltese population may have an effect on the make-up of Malta’s age demographic due to the fact that the death rates seen abroad for those who contract the disease is especially high for those who are over 80 years of age, statistician Vincent Marmara told The Malta Independent.

As the novel virus continues its spread across the world, it is becoming clearer that it may have an effect on most, if not all, parts of a country’s characteristics. One such area which may be affected is a country’s – and indeed the world’s – demography both in terms of population make-up and population movement. 


Asked about the potential demographic effects of the pandemic on Malta in particular, statistician Vincent Marmara told The Malta Independent that the country’s geographical demography should not be affected, but that if there is a large spread of the virus and a big percentage of the population contracts the infection then there may be an effect on the age-makeup of the said population.

“If we look at the rates in other countries, the death rate of those who contract the virus and are 80 years old or over is 15% - which is a high rate when compared to other age brackets”, Marmara said.  For instance, the death rate from Coronavirus for those who are in the 50 to 59 years of age demographic is only 1%.  

Therefore, Marmara concludes, if there is widespread infection in the population then that will affect the country’s demography to the point that there will be fewer elderly people in society, hence affecting Malta’s demographical make-up.

As of Thursday, Malta had 53 confirmed cases of the novel virus, with only two cases being over the age of 70, and none over the age of 80. Two cases have recovered, while the remaining 51 are all in a good health. Health authorities have continually emphasized that contact with people, especially the elderly, should be reduced as much as possible in order to contain the spread of the highly infectious virus.

The common reaction to the virus across most of Europe has been to restrict travel between countries.  Malta itself will close its airport as of this coming Saturday, while the European Union as a whole has imposed a 30-day ban on non-essential travel from outside the bloc.  Other countries within the European Union have similar restrictions to those Malta have imposed as well.

This naturally has an effect on what has become one of the European Union’s biggest selling points – the freedom to travel and even settle permanently in any given country within the bloc.

It’s still a bit early to quantify the effect that the spread of Coronavirus will have in this regard, but Marmara believes that there will certainly be an effect if the virus remains in existence for a number of months.

“As long as there are some cases around the world, the importation rate will surely have an effect because people will be more careful about where they go”, Marmara said.

He said that having spent a number of weeks at home, people will be a bit more cautious when it comes to travelling – especially until there is some form of declaration saying that the situation has been resolved and the virus eradicated.

“I think people will be more cautious to travel before putting their minds at rest that, as a virus, it is completely over with”, he said.

He pointed out that Malta’s population of foreigners rose from 4% to around 20% in the past decade or so, noting that the fact that borders are being closed will have an impact – although it is unclear as of yet what the impact will be.

The measures taken to close borders, while deemed as necessary across the board, go directly against the principle of globalization that the world has built its development around in the contemporary age. 

This leads one to the question: could the virus bring about a change in the manner which the world continues to progress and develop?

Marmara admits that this is a very interesting question, and that to totally understand it, the world still needs to pass through another phase.

He noted that this is a period where, for the first time in many decades, people need to be confined to their homes for a long time.  In terms of the effects that will have on society as a whole, Marmara pointed out that a social psychologist will be able to give a better interpretation.

However, looking at the globalization aspect, Marmara said that the fact is that people may be more fearful of travelling and moving to different countries.

“Today people are being cautious on whether to go out of the house, they are being careful on who they meet and how much contact they have with people – so before anything else, they need re-establish their own internal confidence that the country is safe”, he explained.

“That is the first step”, he said, noting that this is not impossible once it becomes clear that are no more cases being found.

The question however remained then over when countries will reopen their borders, he said noting that countries may choose not to open their borders immediately if there are still cases elsewhere.

These are the big questions that will be faced once the first phase – which is controlling and reducing the infection rate as a country – passes, Marmara said.

Here Malta seems to be, compared to other countries, more advanced both in measures and as a wave of the virus, he said.  However, he continued, it then depends on other countries and whether the potential importation rate of the virus will be a factor once it comes to re-opening their borders.

“If many countries reason in this manner too, then I can see that in the short-term globalization will be affected for sure”, he said.

In the long-term, he continued, people will need to re-acquire a certain sense of confidence which may take some time to get back.  However, one must also see things from a different perspective – that once people start putting their minds at rest – perhaps when a vaccine is made available – there will be a sense of enthusiasm and thirst for socialization to offset the period of time spent effectively locked up.

“Then, as people start to gain more confidence in the fact that the world is safe, the process will slowly start again”, he concluded.

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