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.
Hello readers of this column, one and all, and welcome back to another week of interesting COVID news…
This week new cases and fatalities have fallen again (yes, I know you can only die once unless perhaps you are James Bond), with at least 6% of the world’s population having definitely had COVID (this is certainly an undercount, as these numbers do not include people who have tested +ve but not reported, been symptomatic and not tested, or on the other side of the coin, people who have been infected more than once. The global fatality rate of 1.25% is higher in Africa and SE Asia, but much lower in the Western Pacific, where I suspect it is about to rise now that COVID is gaining traction.
This week, in the Western Pacific, several countries including Australia and New Zealand have reported at least a 10% increase in their case numbers. Vanuatu and Samoa though have both almost doubled their case numbers in a week, and some countries which reported surges over the past weeks have predictable and notable surges in fatalities, especially New Zealand and Tonga, the latter with very small numbers but also, as a reminder, small hospital facilities. Africa is however quiet, with some countries which hitherto have reported regularly providing no updates this week, and some only a handful of cases. They were so busy before Christmas I am relieved for them.
An important message
Now for some other comments.
In Australia the overall COVID rate in all States and Territories now far outstrips the overall world rate, but you wouldn’t know that living here.
This week various people who should know better than to speak out about areas in which they are not trained and qualified to speak have been making some potentially disastrous comments – no longer just about lockdown, masks etc but about isolation and quarantine. Our Victorian state opposition leader amongst them, and with a history of either not understanding or making deliberately misleading comments about past public health initiatives, this week was one of several people complaining that as they close contacts of people who are are COVID +ve – or even +ve themselves = but asymptomatic there should be no reason for them to be in isolation. So let me be very clear about this.
A POSITIVE TEST CLEARLY INDICATES THAT YOU ARE INFECTIOUS REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU HAPPEN TO HAVE SYMPTOMS OR NOT. YOU DEFINITLY CAN INFECT SOMEBODY ELSE.
If you are a close contact of a confirmed case it is very possible that you are infectious but not yet showing symptoms or testing positive. You can infect somebody else before you become a confirmed case.
JUST ONE DROPLET IS ENOUGH TO TRANSMIT COVID TO ANOTHER PERSON.
THE WHOLE PURPOSE OF ISOLATION/QUARANTINE IS TO STOP IT BEING PASSED ON AGAIN.
Please could you all understand this really very basic point about infection and transmission and stop complaining, and maybe make sure that you and your nearest and dearest also do your best to not become infected. So please pass the message on, and remember this message applies to all infections and not just COVID-19. If you have symptoms and you haven’t tested +ve for COVID you have something else, which you really need to keep to yourself. Also, not having symptoms today does not mean that you might not have symptoms tomorrow.
The same message applies to attempted character assassinations of Chief Health Officers and other public health officials who are just going about their legislated business. In the USA the results of a public health workforce survey (PHWINS) is in the first stages of the release of results, and COVID-related bullying is depressingly common. Some particularly unpleasant comments have been directed at the Tasmanian CHO this week on social media platforms. He is dealing with a current massive increase in cases, so a virtual bouquet of flowers to him and indeed all who have experienced public and private bullying because they happen to be doing a public protection job. It is so cowardly to put up comments under a pseudonym on a platform where your target has no means of responding.
This week’s papers
Determinants of passive antibody effectiveness in SARS-CoV-2 infection (pre-peer-review, but interesting nonetheless for people interested in antibodies, vaccines and recovery from disease).
From the New England Journal: Effect of Early Treatment with Ivermectin among Patients with Covid-19
Lastly, this paper from Nature is about vaccine patent waivers, which I know I have mentioned a few hundred times already, but so little happens I’m not giving up yet.
These flowers are for everyone who has been bullied/ignored/abused for public health work, especially over COVID. Not just a bouquet but a whole field.
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.