The Code COVID19 International Update – 23 September 2021

close up photo of the coronavirus

Dr Priscilla Robinson

This 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.

View the latest spreadsheet here

Patterns of infection: The snapshot this week shows that overall again new infections this week are lower than last week, and similarly fatalities are generally down. There are small increases in cases in the Americas and Europe, and fatalities in the Americas.

Countries to note: Most countries on this list are doing well, and although several have changed places on the main ranking sheet, in general increases are relatively small compared with events in the past.

However, Cuba has had almost 20% more cases this week, where almost 75% of people had one dose, and nearly 40% are fully vaccinated. In WPRO, New Caledonia has had a massive threefold increase in cases, and reported fatalities have jumped from four to 25 (I have to presume that some of this might be due to recalibration). The rise in the Western pacific is largely confined to New Caledonia and Australia. Uganda has had a 25% increase this week, but elsewhere in Africa things have calmed down; a couple of provinces in South Africa even reported no fatalities for the past seven days.

I have (again) added  another couple of countries, including Turkmenistan, this week, as there has been some reporting about their situation – it was the first country worldwide to mandate vaccines for its population, but the levels they have achieved are very low. They report no cases at all, but the surrounding countries certainly have, and there are ‘anecdotal’ reports which also suggest there are many cases in hospital.

The other countries which have reported no cases are: Tuvalu, Tonga, Tokelau, St Helena, the Pitcairn Islands, Niue, Nauru, Kiribati, North Korea (democratic Republic), and the Cook Islands. In addition, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa, and American Samoa, also have reported less than 10 in total. These places clearly share some geographical characteristics.

For people in Australia, the outbreaks in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT are interesting. So far, since the beginning of June, taking the population size into account the attack rate in NSW has been about four times higher than in Victoria and NSW. Queensland looked like it was going to join in, but their outbreak didn’t really materialise. Much was said about the punitive and draconian measures they used, but they worked. The overall rate in NSW is not one and a half times higher than for Victoria since the beginning of last year.

The vaccination programmes have ramped up enough for almost 29 MILLION doses to be given every day. To date, almost one third of the world’s people are fully vaccinated, and have received at least one dose (remembering that the J&J vaccine only requires one dose).

A note on boosters:
The news on booster recommendations is mixed – booster programmes were expected to be started in much of the northern hemisphere soon, but there seems to be a bit of a rethink about it all. In the USA. The main issue is to ensure that the vaccines protect against the new variants, so much like flu vaccines the effectiveness needs to be evaluated before launching into a programme. Trials are underway in the UK and USA, so reliable answers will be with us soon. Watch this space.

Also on vaccines, China was so good at suppressing the outbreak at the beginning that they had too few cases to be able to run Phase III (the main community-based) trials, which has produced some interesting associated problems as to find enough people who were potentially at risk of disease they eventually conducted trials in multiple developing countries.

See you next week,


About Dr Priscilla Robinson and The CODE COVID19 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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