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.
Welcome to the third July update.
I’ll begin with a warning: at the time of compiling this week’s spreadsheet the WHO figures have not been updated to 19/20 July so I have stuck with the 18 July ones, which means that the gap between Johns Hopkins and WHO is larger than usual. Plus, there is a disclaimer on the WHO website about data quality/timeliness from Africa.
So I am not at all sure it is useful to comment on patterns (other than cases apparently are up in the Western Pacific and Eastern Mediterranean and down everywhere else, which is not quite what governments are saying). Whilst there are fewer new cases this week compared with last, this is certainly not true everywhere and I am not sure it is actually true anywhere.
The overall case fatality rate however continues to fall slowly, now down to 1.14 globally, but very unevenly distributed for reasons mentioned boringly often in this blog so I won’t repeat them this time. Except for the Yemen, which probably is an illustration of a very stressed health care system and under-notification of cases, and the fatality rate is now almost one in five at 18%.
Worldwide, whilst politicians have consistently refused to countenance a return to any protective measures at all, public health and curative health practitioners have been almost pleading for at least a return to masks, and perhaps a bit of policing where it is apparently mandated (such as public transport here and there). Meanwhile, much of Asia cannot understand why there is a problem with western countries using them.
A few writers have pointed out that masks protect us from other people’s bugs, and other people from ours, so are a two-way protection. Politicians continue to promote the personal responsibility line, which always works so well … remember the fight about wearing seatbelts and how it restricted personal freedoms and how it should be a personal decision and responsibility, just give people the information etc … and then it became the law, and fatality rates dropped.
Vaccines, which do seem to prevent serious disease even if they are not 100% protective, remain a depressing story. A massive recalibration occurred this week, so that for almost every country (yes, including Australia) the coverage rate of completed course and boosters has fallen. Overall vaccination rates continue to only creep, so nothing new there.
An interesting piece in Nature this week, addressing the fact that people with only ‘mild’ COVID symptoms (whatever that means) have no available treatments but having some would limit disease, transmission, and get people back to normal faster. In my travels I have not encountered people with ‘mild’ COVID – only a very small number – maybe 1% – with no symptoms at all, and another 1% with few symptoms and short-lived disease, but otherwise people seem to have a marked and quite prolonged illness. But my observations do not constitute a scientific study, and perhaps these authors simply mean the majority of people who do not land up in an hospital.
The case fatality rate is ‘twice as deadly in poorer countries’ – no surprise there, but now there is evidence.
The same edition of Nature has a paper about the transmission of COVID from a pet cat to a human, because the cat sneezed in the vet’s face. I have only done one RAT myself – before a meeting – and had real trouble getting a good swab because I kept sneezing, so I sympathise!
See you next 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. 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.