There are approximately 330 million people at risk of contracting a severe coronavirus infection due to underlying health conditions in nine of the world's largest economies.
That is according estimates by epidemiologists at GlobalData, which studied the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes and some selected rare diseases worldwide.
They found that 15% of the population suffer from these underlying health conditions in the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Spain and China combined.
Katie Wrenn, associate epidemiologist at GlobalData, said that Italy, which has reported more than 11,500 deaths at the time of writing, provides an example of what can happen when vulnerable aren't protected quickly enough.
“We now know that severe and critical forms of COVID-19 are more common in the elderly and those with chronic underlying health conditions,” she continued.
“Italy failed to protect its at-risk population quickly enough, with the number of critically ill patients now exceeding the number of intensive care unit beds.
“Being able to quantify the proportion of a population with chronic underlying disease helps nations to prevent the spread of this disease, protect these at-risk groups and depressurise health systems by planning for the likely number of people who may require hospitalisation if they contract COVID-19."
The proportion of the population with underlying health issues in nine of the world's largest markets is shown below:
The study assessed the prevalence of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, heart failure and myocardial infarction, diabetes mellitus type 1 and type 2, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
This comes as actuaries offer their expertise to UK government agencies to help with the logistics of providing critical services to vulnerable citizens who require to be 'shielded' across society.
‘’Other countries must use the proportion of people at risk of developing severe COVID-19 to prepare their healthcare systems to cope with what lies ahead,” Wrenn added.