The CODE update – 10 June

Priscilla Robinson

Click here to view the latest spreadsheet

Well, things seem to be a bit more predictable in COVID-land this week. Worldwide, new infections continue to accrue at about 200,000 a day (a bit over a million a week – remember when there was a worldwide panic about reaching the first million?? A year ago we were at just over 5.5 million), and fatalities rise at about 5,000 a day. Because Peru adjusted its fatality numbers upward by about 300%, the worldwide rate has gone up to 2.16, which is still a long way behind the 5%-odd rate at the beginning, and also accounts for the big increase in deaths both worldwide and in the Americas (see Snapshot sheet). At last, new cases seem to be dropping in Europe, presumably because we are at last seeing the results of their collective immunisation programmes, and hopefully SE Asia (mainly India) has seen the top of the Delta wave. A couple of countries in Africa have seen increases this week, but there is still no update from Tanzania, and if they ever get to updating their numbers there will be a leap as they have not reported to WHO for a year or so now, along with N Korea (who may or may not have actual cases). China is interesting – a handful of cases most days, but apparently under control; maybe being a massive country with a lot of sparsely occupied countryside, and very dense cities, makes it reasonably easy to keep some control over who goes where; of course they have had serious outbreak experience before with SARS v1. And I still find it striking that the US and India between them includes 22% of the world’s peoples, and have seen one third of all cases and over 28% of fatalities. I wonder how different it all might have been if the previous US administration had mounted a comprehensive, national public health response right back at the start.

All this really illustrates how different countries count these things differently, and within federated countries the states often have their own rules. So the patterns reflect what is going on within countries, but are not necessarily comparable between countries, which makes me very glad I am not in charge of a massive international dataset! As it is, I only have to worry about small typographical and transcription errors.

I have added a couple of countries including Afghanistan – I wonder how on earth people there are able to make any kind of public health response to a pandemic as well as the growing unrest, and truly pray for them. They do seem to have access to come vaccines, but with a not all that reliable electrical grid who knows what will happen. Speaking of which, I gather in PNG there is now assess to AZ through the COVID programme. Australia sent 8000 doses and some nurses to Port Moresby for a population of 9 million people and with almost no electricity outside the very-dispersed towns; if you think getting to a clinic in a western city can be irritating, try thinking about catching a plane to be sure your vaccine has been properly stored. I am absolutely certain this is not a problem confined to just one country; I hope the COVAX programme has good access to the J&J vaccine – one dose and heat stable so electricity and cold chain issues are not quite the same problem (although of course leaving it out in the sun wouldn’t do it any good).

Here is some reliable information about the new variant naming system for you.

Coronavirus variants get Greek names — but will scientists use them? From Alpha to Omega, the labelling system aims to avoid confusion and stigmatization.

And about Delta in particular:

Kirsty Short. What’s the Delta COVID variant found in Melbourne? Is it more infectious and does it spread more in kids?

About a year ago, our deputy Chief Health Officer in Victoria was demoted for suggesting that COVID was a bit like the effect of the First Fleet on the health of Aboriginal People, and told to go and read up on some history. Well here you go, Annalise… vindicated I think. And that’s not counting the various massacres which have been well documented in various places.

Chris Warren. Was Sydney’s smallpox outbreak of 1789 an act of biological warfare against Aboriginal tribes?

Lastly, something to make you smile from the admirable Crikey team, for everyone but especially Australians (not used with permission, and I hope they do not mind).

See you next week,


About Dr Priscilla Robinson and The CODE 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 makes weight-bearing gym exercise and strength training a bit redundant.

The CODE Update is a new regular feature on the Intouch blog 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 a way of explaining it to Priscilla’s friends and family who happen to live all over the world, and who were being bombarded with information and misinformation in their own countries. The CODE Update provides links to practical materials and papers written for people who are not versed in the language of outbreaks and epidemic curves. It is sent out every week, and includes a short commentary to provide context to the numbers included in the spreadsheets.

Note: Whilst 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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