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 LaTrobe University, and an editor for the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
Another week in our ‘COVID-normal’ land. Things look pretty much the same as last week in some ways, but not in others. At last cases and fatalities are generally down worldwide in all regions at the same time, at about 75% of the new cases compared with the week before.
The world, especially Australia apparently, is getting in knots about COVID-19 in China, so here is some perspective:
In the last week, China has had 44,581 cases notified, with 290 deaths. Most cases in China have been in Shanghai, with a population of almost 25 million, and a few in Beijing, which has a population of about 21.5 million, compared with Australia which has had 274,072 cases (i.e. about three times as many on a population basis – or just over 300% more if you happen to be a headline writer) and 216 deaths in a population of about 25.7 million. Note that at the beginning of a surge on any disease there are always more fatalities. In fact, Australia has had 35,000-50,000 cases notified every day for the last week – Grand Prix, Easter, events at various stadia … all of those potentially spreader events add up… And yes, I agree that China probably has unnotified cases, but Australia CERTAINLY does, as it is not doing anything even vaguely like case seeking, which is what is happening in China. Locked in lockdowns: remember the Victorian Flemington Tower Blocks? For the record, we often compare with Australia with Canada, so here you are – this week Canada has had 57,196 cases and 383 deaths. So I think we have an elephant in the room, or maybe a large beam in our own eye??
Anyway, the recently stalled case fatality rate seems to be possibly moving downwards again, and some fatalities are from cases which have been around a while (we know this because there are some . . . in places with no cases but a couple of fatalities).
Worldwide, there are two depressing stories in these data. Firstly, low income countries, especially in Africa but also in places like Papua New Guinea, COVID vaccine delivery is slow-to-stalled. Secondly, upper middle income countries now outstrip high income countries for completed initial schedules (actually, perhaps that just shows a degree of herd stupidity??). Note that almost nowhere comes close to any kind of herd immunity from vaccination, and as a high proportion of the population worldwide – over 40% – remains unvaccinated, that is a lot of people who are still at risk of a dangerous dose of COVID with no assistance from at least partial help from vaccine-induced immunity.
Added to which, in some countries – Australia included – we are told that our vaccination rates are over 90% (and given as the reason we have had almost all protective restrictions lifted) but that is only because ineligible groups, especially young children, are not included in the count presented by our politicians and media, and who knows from where their data are derived. So in the international vaccination tables we see more realistic rates, and Australia is reported to be 83.35%, which seems to me to be more realistic for thinking about herd immunity.
|Completed protocol %||Booster doses %|
|Low Income Countries||12.16||0.60|
|Lower Middle Income Countries||51.50||6.30|
|Upper Middle Income Countries||77.02||41.40|
This week’s papers:
Another interesting titbit from Nature:
In North America COVID-19 is being reported in wild deer (although not Omicron – yet), and we learn that there is an interesting collaboration between microbiology scientists and hunters for tracking such issues. Worth a read!
And that’s about it for this week. For people in the southern hemisphere don’t forget the flu shots and ‘winter COVID booster’ as it is now called. Flu is definitely on the march now, even if it is having a slow week, a downward trend is a good thing if it keeps going. The first chart of this report shows the rise in respiratory symptoms over the past four months, and just in case you need a reminder, you don’t want either flu or COVID!
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.