The Code COVID-19 International Update – 9 December 2021

close up photo of the coronavirus
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.

Hi everyone,

View the latest spreadsheet here

Worldwide there continues to be about 500,000 cases and about 50,000 fatalities reported to WHO each day. Johns Hopkins data remain about one day’s worth ahead of WHO. Worldwide, about 3.4% of people have had COVID, but the case fatality rate continues to fall, and fairly quickly – this week it is at 1.98. (Today WHO numbers have not been updated from yesterday so the gap is larger than normal.)

A few places in the Pacific have had marked increases, such as the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Cook Islands have reported their first case. New Zealand has had about 10% of its total cases in the last seven days, and whilst Australia has had many more cases to date. It’s had almost 10,000 in the past week (which is almost as much as the NZ total, with an overall population rate about four times as high). Cases in South Korea have also increased markedly this week.

In Africa, South Africa of course is reporting an increase, but it is only happening in some provinces, notably places with large mining industries. Most countries in southern Africa are having a quiet time, the exception being Mauritius, which has had a 33% increase this week. Between them the countries on the much-publicised do-not-travel-or-come-here lists have had fewer cases than even Australia, so there is some justification for the general African consternation around travel restrictions – there does not even seem to be all that much transmission happening, and these data show that it has not produced a spike in fatalities, even if the usual problems of possible under-reporting etc are taken into account.

In Australia we continue to have our outbreaks in NSW and Victoria, with similar patterns but with much more in Victoria. It is not clear why this is – maybe the end of winter and getting outside in NSW is helping whilst it seems to still be quite wintery in Victoria. Maybe it is differences in testing – who fronts up as a case contact, the right specimens being collected at the right time (and with absolutely no cross-contamination) – the sensitivity and specificity (i.e. accuracy) of the tests which are being used (PCRs, RATs), training and quality control at various steps in the process – who knows? I certainly don’t! But I think the fact that the infection patterns mirror each other is interesting (see the chart on the Tale of Five Outbreaks sheet), plus that the fact that people do not get tested over the weekend or early in the week shows in the ups and downs each week, is worth noting as it shows that it all depends on people actually showing up for a swab in the first place.

The vaccination story sadly has not improved. High income countries have now given boosters to a twice as many % than people in low income countries who have had even one dose, and also more than a single dose to people in African countries. This is patently not fair, and even given the various conspiracy theories circulating does not account for this disparity. Keep supporting COVAX as much as you can, and please consider a Christmas donation to UNICEF as a pay-it-forward way to help with distribution to low-income countries.

Now for the reading list.

  • Larry Gostin has a new book available through Harvard. He is always readable, so this should be a useful addition to the public health bookshelf – I plan to get a copy.

How can we prepare for future pandemics and health crises? @LawrenceGostin’s #GlobalHealthSecurity proposes a pragmatic plan urgently needed for the future of global health.”

  • Although a few days old now, the points made in this paper from Nature are important:

Omicron-variant border bans ignore the evidence, say scientists.  Researchers say travel restrictions in response to the newly detected coronavirus variant come too late and could even slow studies of Omicron.”


Thank you SJE for this week’s cartoon.

A cartoon picture of bagpipes and tartan shaped like a coronavirus. Text: 'The SCOTTISH VARIANT. At least you can hear it coming.'

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.

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