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, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Public Health at La Trobe University, and an editor for the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
Another week of ‘nothing much to see here’. Officially the world continues a slow march to the 10% overall official infection rate (and of course it really is much higher that that), and the fatality rate sits at 1.18%.
The Snapshot sheet shows how much numbers are bouncing around – and the WHO website has a disclaimer about the timeliness of reports – so it is impossible to say anything about trends there. The rates of COVID in the countries on the first and main list used to be quite different to the worldwide rates (higher population rates and lower fatality rates), and these differences still remain. In Africa, several countries report no cases and no deaths which is not really plausible.
China continues to have half a million cases a week despite all of the efforts to prevent transmission, which leads me to another point. We have not heard much about changes in microbiology for a while, nor have we yet had any really good epidemiological risk-factor studies, and even the original lists of risks – the usual age, male, smoker, co-existing disease – has not undergone any real revision. This is both sad and annoying, because there are many questions to be asked about patterns of infection, transmission, and risk and protective factors, for which the medical community has now missed the boat completely. It is very hard to devise preventive strategies when it is no longer clear what might work – apart from those masks and handwashing, which still seem to be our best defence and least promoted (and are being increasingly abandoned). There are one or two holiday destinations which routinely seem anecdotally to send people back with COVID, but epidemiological information does not seem to be crossing borders so who would even know?
In Australia effective treatments are available for people in certain groups (and the general descriptions make this useful for people everywhere, although availability might be different:
I do know of one person who, despite being well over 70 years old, was informed that age by itself is not a risk factor, despite treatment for various age-related chronic conditions, so be prepared to be forearmed.
To add to the general misery, vaccination rates have slowed to stalling speed. This week many countries added less than 0.01% of their population with completed schedules, and as has become quite common, a few countries seem to have unvaccinated a few %. TRIPS agreements for patent waivers for vaccines and other essential medicines are also not working at all as needed, so look out for opportunities to advocate for the many peoples who would benefit from these and add your voice to the various waiver campaigns, which ever country you are reading this in.
This week’s papers
This message, about having had an episode of COVID not being a prevention for further doses, even in people who have had boosters, seems not to be getting to people who need to hear it. Plus, one dose of a fairly mild infection can lead to a much worse second dose, with infection getting further down the respiratory tract and into the lungs the second time around.
The same group of scientists have also warned that one episode of Omicron does not seem to provide protective antibodies, so you can get Omicron again – and worse the second time.
And of course there is the herd immunity problem: ‘Herd immunity was sold as the path out of the pandemic. So why is no-one talking about it anymore?’ “Early in the pandemic, the term ‘herd immunity’ hit the headlines, along with a polarised discussion on how to achieve it. Now, no-one talks about it anymore.” Hassan Vally explains why.
And from Nature, food for thought (not sushi, sorry): ‘COVID lessons from Japan: the right messaging empowers citizens’
Until next week, keep safe, be immunised, and don’t forget the sanitiser and masks.
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. Otherwise, 10 acres of untamed bushland on a hill in South Gippsland, VIC, makes weight-bearing gym exercise and strength training a bit redundant.
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.