It is true that seasonal flu kills many people worldwide every year. More than previously died from the corona virus. Nevertheless, one cannot draw the conclusion that SARS-CoV-2 is harmless than seasonal flu viruses.
There are several reasons for this. For one thing, it is not yet clear how high the mortality rate of SARS-CoV-2 will actually be. A look at the numbers of the so-called excess mortality, i.e. the increased deaths compared to all-cause mortality in the same period, does not yet show any extraordinary increases. However, it must be taken into account here that this year’s winter was mild and is presumably associated with a particularly small number of flu deaths and that the epidemic with SARS-CoV-2 is not yet over.
No basic immunity in the population at Corona
In addition, due to the relatively high infection rate, there is a risk that the virus will spread quickly worldwide. And because people have never been infected with the new corona virus, there is no basic immunity (as with the flu). People are exposed to the virus without protection.
It is different with the seasonal flu that occurs annually: According to the WHO, about 15 percent of the world’s population is infected with one of the circulating influenza strains each year and thereby receives partial immunity. This leads to basic immunity in the population against certain influenza viruses.
Despite low mortality, many victims are possible
Without basic immunity, however, a virus can spread quickly and infect large parts of the world’s population, sometimes in several waves. This can cause a pandemic to claim many victims, even if the overall mortality rate is not particularly high. The flu pandemic of 1968, for example, had a mortality rate well below half a percent, but still killed about one to four million people worldwide.