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.
Hello One and All,
Of international concern, having had several weeks with numbers of new cases falling, and remembering that last week’s numbers were about 6 days and this week are for 8 days, the big jump in new notifications and fatalities is worrying. This could be due to new Omicron variants, or perhaps catch-up reporting, but there are no reports of new emerging strains, or not that I have seen anyway, although as they occur about every six months we could be due for one. Worldwide, approaching 7% of the population is reported as now having had COVID – much higher in some places, notably countries with fairly robust reporting systems, which leads to the conclusion that overall rates are probably much higher. But, in response to the shrugging-shoulders approach to control measures, as that means that most people – even in countries with high rates – have not had COVID, by design and use of controls and possibly also geography – there is no obvious reason to suppose that we will all get it in the end if we do our collective best not to. Just saying.
Australia is certainly high on the list of contribution of new cases, with over a third of a million in the past seven days. Whilst China (over half a million) and the USA (two thirds of a million) have more cases, remember that our population is a fraction of either of these, so we retain our unenviable status of having the highest per capita attack rate worldwide at the moment.
The Case Fatality Rate has now dipped to 1.20, and still going down. Remember that there is a rise in new case numbers, so this reflects that a slowly decreasing proportion of them are fatal, even though there are more of them. However the 76 countries followed on the main spreadsheet have an overall low rate (of 1.01), and as this constitutes 92% of global cases it follows that the remaining countries have a much higher rate. The countries I don’t track are largely in South America and Eastern Europe, and are resource-poorer countries, but it is still a very big gap. I have mentioned before however that these data are not necessarily comparable between countries as cases and fatalities are not counted the same way everywhere. However, over time each country reports in the same way, so longitudinal trends are visible. The countries on this tracker have very variable fatality rates, from very low (Australia (0.12) and Singapore (0.12) to the Yemen (18.18)), the reasons being very varied, from the way cases are counted and confirmed, to access to any kinds of facilities to be able to diagnose and treat in the first place. And then we have the ‘dying of’ compared with ‘dying with’ argument used by some governments to pretend that it has actually stopped being a problem…
In Australia, Victoria, once by far and away the state with the ‘biggest’ problem (and the cause of much name-calling and blame for the country’s woes, even during the recent election) now has an overall population attack rate (of 27.5%) exceeded by NSW (31%), ACT (29.7%), the NT (28.6%) and South Australia (28.1%). So that’s what happens when all control measures are abandoned. Fatality rates, dominated in Victoria by the problems in (Federal-administered, remember) aged care facilities are also starting to catch up in other states (or rather survival rates in Victoria are increasing so that fatality rates are slowing down).
And by the way, although the press has reported the USA as having had a million deaths, this is still not the case according to either WHO or Johns Hopkins, even if there is a creep towards it.
The vaccination data are also becoming quite difficult to track down. Some countries seem to be un-vaccinating people as their numbers go backwards, and some erstwhile poster children (such as Israel) seem to have quietly dropped right back in the pack. Primary courses are not being completed as quickly as booster doses (and the ‘winter booster’ being given in the global south is also not being reported separately from the first booster dose so the % given is very likely to be inflated).
I have added a column to the vaccination tracker about vaccine doses donated to the COVAX programme. More woeful data. There are many countries which have committed, but not actually sent, doses to be distributed through the programme (and Australia seems to be the leader here) but I am not reporting those data, only the actually paid-for doses – some of which but not all have been shipped. I refuse to report promises which could be empty, but we can maybe start pressuring our (new Australian) government to honour the pledge.
The Guardian has produced an interesting commentary article, “Affordable Covid drugs kept out of reach by sluggish WTO”, explaining to some extent how the TRIPS (intellectual property basically) waiver in some COVID anti-viral drugs and vaccines has been negotiated for a depressingly small number of countries.
Other preventive strategies
A number of people are reminding us that face masks work to prevent spread, internationally, and remember that these measures also help to prevent other infections also airborne-transmitted.
The first graph in this Flutracking report illustrates the increase in flu in Australia, after two quiet years because of relative social lack-of-contact and masks etc. We are clearly in for a rough winter, unless our new government decides to do something – anything – to stop spread, such as at least free vaccines for everyone and masks especially on public transport and in public indoor settings. Flu vaccinations are also being reported as preventive/protective measures for COVID.
Articles and papers
This report from the BBC, titled ‘Covid: World’s true pandemic death toll nearly 15 million, says WHO’, summarises WHO’s revised estimate of deaths, with comments similar to those above about how deaths are counted. It is worth visiting the WHO pages as there is information there about the Ukraine war and Monkeypox too, to keep you informed with public health matters other than COVID. There is also a report about a new Chinese single dose COVID vaccine (CONVIDECIA).
So that’s it for this week. Keep well and safe.
See you in June.
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.