The CODE Update – 18 August

Priscilla Robinson

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There are some interesting patterns to note this week.

As happens about every three months or so, this week the total number of new cases compared with last week is very slightly reduced, as are fatalities (it last happened in May-June, and before that in February-March). This is clearly the case in the Eastern Mediterranean (which has had an increase in deaths, although I have no idea why), South East Asia and most of Africa.  In the Western Pacific, Thailand is now reporting around 20,000 cases and a couple of hundred deaths each day (more than 1% of their population has now reportedly tested +ve), and Cambodia continues to have around 10,000 cases each day. Fiji  mercifully seems to have slowed down again, the problem in Laos looks like it might be slowing down, but VietNam has doubled its total fatalities during this last week (maybe some catch-up reporting?). Brunei Darussalam didn’t have many cases to start with but doubled this week, and in Africa a couple of countries (Eswatini, Burundi, Mauritius, Guinea-Bissau, and the Cote d’Ivoire) have had quite large increases too. Even the Americas and Europe have been steady this week. Which leaves us with the Western Pacific which continues its recent increases – 20% this week – especially in fatalities. Sometimes having been lauded as ‘managing well’, in reality I suspect this is just because of global lockdowns etc. so nobody was visiting, and now that things are easing and COVID-19 has arrived in several islands, and without an early and widespread use of vaccines, the inevitable is now happening. By the way, the Australian press persistently reports ‘surges’ in China, but I have no idea why as there are never more than a few dozen cases, and their overall case rate remains very, very low; presumably there are a few pockets of cases, just like everywhere else.

Now, for people living in Australia, this is what the various current state outbreaks look like. Apologies to places like the UK who have to deal with a few thousand cases a day, but this is why we are not allowed to travel. Next week I will try to find a way to add policy decisions such as lockdowns to it.

Although there are several unstable countries in today’s world, I can’t help thinking about conflict-troubled zones. Syria and Afghanistan seem to still be reporting their COVID-19 situations. But they seem to have only rudimentary vaccination programmes happening, although how they are managing to do any all heaven only knows.

Malta has fully vaccinated over 90% of its population (and nearly 10% has had COVID-19) so must almost be at herd immunity now. Iceland (nearly 3% attack rate) and the UAE (7% attack rate) are getting there, at over 70% fully vaccinated. All of Europe and North America are at over 50%. But there has been no apparent progress in vaccination rates in low income countries  – just 1.3% have had any vaccine at all, and only 0.3% are fully vaccinated – whilst in high income countries almost half of their populations are now fully immunised. Inequality written in capital letters, in bold, in a very large font. Please, please advocate for the COVAX programme. For the record, Australia is sitting somewhere between the overall rates in lower and upper middle income countries, and I have no idea at all why we would be getting Pfizer vaccines from Poland (I didn’t think it is manufactured there) (although they are doing better than us, but I’m not sure that is a reason and, if it is, that it is a good one…).

That’s it until next week. Keep safe.


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 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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