close up photo of the coronavirus

The CODE COVID-19 International Update, 31 March 2022

The CODE COVID-19 International Update, 31 March 2022
Dr Priscilla Robinson

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.


Dear everyone,

View the latest spreadsheet here

Globally, attack rates now sit above 6%, however the case fatality rate is down to 1.25%. Worldwide the numbers of new cases continue to fall, with about 10% fewer cases this week and almost 25% fewer fatalities. However, the African region has seen a case surge, and as predicted SE Asia has sadly seen a rise in fatalities as a result of rises in cases for the past couple of weeks.

Hot spots this week:

(South) Korea – around 20% increase (note: North Korea still has recorded no cases …), and China (which still has a very low overall infection rate) has had a big jump in fatalities, of around 10%.

In Africa, Réunion has seen a surge, with an overall attack rate (over 37% of the population) now resembling the holiday islands of Maldives (32%, SE Asia) and Seychelles (40%). Otherwise Africa is generally quite quiet at the moment.

Here in Australia we are just playing catch-up with the rest of the world. All states except for WA have now reported cases amounting to 15-20% of their populations, and WA is catching up fast, having gone from pretty much nothing to over 5% in a couple of weeks.  What a pity all of the public health messaging has been abandoned, and whilst there might not be much individual people can do to minimise community infection rates, there is still a lot that works individually to reduce risk, including masks and handwashing, staying home if sick, etc. I know that children are the big melting-pot at the moment, but they are definitely not the only sources of infection.

This would not be a good time to plan a holiday in the Pacific or South East Asia. In Samoa cases have quadrupled, American Samoa, the Cook Islands, and Vanuatu, have all more or less doubled. New Zealand is having a hard time, also with nearly 20% case rise and fatalities have jumped about 40%. Brunei Darussalam is up over 30%, Mongolia 28%, French Polynesia at 25%, New Caledonia 25%, Guam at 23%.  This is partly the effect of not that many cases amongst very small populations, but the pattern is striking.



Unfortunately, worldwide vaccination rates remain an international embarrassment to resource-rich countries. Also, overall, vaccination rates – including boosters – have slowed right down – in most countries vaccines have reached arms in under 1% of people, so adequate coverage is not going to happen without much more effort. Some countries even seem to have gone backwards, although this might be an artifact of reporting requirements.



Here is a letter/short report from Austrian scientists in the New England Journal of Medicine which shows how boosters are a very, very good idea for keeping up active antibody protection.

Nature has included a paper about China’s current problems – China has had such low numbers and rates because of their quite draconian policies to date, but their vaccination rates are not high enough yet, especially in older people –  and another about long Covid prevention with vaccines and timely treatments, plus a plea for faster vaccine roll-out worldwide.


In the news

This week’s cartoon is actually a photo (Thank you SE for sending it.) What COVID? Not a mask in sight and as for any kind of distancing …

Pitch invasion (for overseas readers, a celebration of a particularly significant goal) at the Sydney Cricket Ground (where football is played – don’t ask…just try to imagine a significant soccer or rugby match being played at Lords or The Oval…). This is really worrying … we can expect a big rise especially in NSW cases from Tuesday onwards, and then a week after that from secondary transmission. Hey ho, Easter is not going to be much fun in public health circles.





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.

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