The Code COVID19 International Update is a weekly snapshot of the COVID-19 pandemic, assessing efforts by nations around the world to test, track and fight the virus. It’s compiled by Dr Priscilla Robinson, a London-based Adjunct Associate Professor of Public Health at La Trobe University, and an editor for the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
Here in London it has stopped being sunny and late autumn, and has turned into pre-Christmas winter. Which brings gloom, not just in the weather, but also in rises in general respiratory infections, so more coughs and colds, more ‘flu, and of course more COVID.
Worldwide cases are up around 10%, and fatalities down 4% (but not that simple, please see next comments).
Japan has again had over half a million cases this week, South Korea a third of a million, and France a quarter of a million. For the record, Australia has not updated its case numbers this week. China, with many times more people, has notified under 150,000, but with far more global attention.
Deaths, mercifully, continue to fall, and the global rate is heading down to 1.03% (remember the early days when it was over 2%?). Africa has reduced its total number of fatalities by some 2,000 – quite a lot in the Limpopo area of South Africa – presumably there is some consolidation of reports happening.
One or two countries, including Australia, have reduced their proportion of their populations who are fully vaccinated according to their original protocols (normally 2 doses of vaccine, depending on the brand). On the other hand many countries are reporting substantial improvements in rates of completed schedules and of booster doses, although as usual resource-poor countries still lag behind.
It is quite possible that the improvement in fatality rates is at least partly linked to vaccine coverage response to therapies (last week’s paper on variable as well as treatments notwithstanding), although many countries with low vaccination rates also report low fatality rates. But there are probably structural reasons for this discussed often in these blogs.
For people who believe that mRNA vaccines link people to the internet, although I could not find anything to report about COVID this week, this paper is about the development of mRNA vaccine technology for ‘flu, and is good news for ‘flu prevention:
Arevalo C et al. A multivalent nucleoside-modified mRNA vaccine against all known influenza virus subtypes. Science Nov 2023 (available here).
Now that the fatality rate for COVID has fallen so much, thinking about COVID and ‘flu prevention in tandem makes a lot of sense to me, and maybe this will be the route by which a ‘winter vaccine (‘flu plus COVID, and in the future maybe others)’ arrives.
Until next – and the last – week.
About Dr Priscilla Robinson and The CODE COVID-19 International Update
Dr Robinson is a public health epidemiologist with particular interests in international health and communicable diseases, and public health competencies. She has worked in health departments in England and Australia, has managed public health teaching programmes, and taught and researched many aspects of public health epidemiology and policy in many countries. She is an adjunct Associate Professor at LaTrobe University, and to stop herself being bored is an editor of PHAA’s journal ANZJPH, and holds board positions (almost all unpaid) on various NGOs, journals, and at her local hospital.
The CODE Update is a regular Intouch feature to keep readers informed of COVID-19 developments around the world.
The CODE Update originally began at the start of the SARS CoV-2 pandemic as Priscilla’s way of explaining to her friends and family around the world what was happening, and counter their experiences of information overload and misinformation. The update provides links to practical materials and papers written for people who are not versed in the language of outbreaks and epidemic curves. Published weekly, it includes a short commentary to provide context to the numbers included in the spreadsheets.
Note: While every attempt is made to transcribe all data faithfully, every now and again mistakes are made and not noticed until the next Update. Also, on occasion, numbers are revised after posting at the source databases.
We hope you will find these updates to be a helpful tool, and the links to current information useful.