Update on the virus: 13 September
Robert Bender

 

The Johns Hopkins data downloaded today shows the world has now recorded 224,000,000 cases of the virus, so 3% of the world’s population has now been infected. But some countries have much larger infection rates than 3%. The chart shows the 26 countries that have recorded over 10% of their populations being infected over the past 21 months, topped by the Seychelles Island group in the south- western Indian Ocean that has clocked up 21%. Together they have 8.6% of the world’s people but recorded 34.5% of the world’s infected cases. As of today, Australia had recorded 73,600 cases, which amounts to 0.29% of its population, far below the world average of 3%.

 

 

21 countries have now surpassed 2 million virus cases, with the same three standing out from the crowd as has been the case for well over a year: USA, India and Brazil. USA has recorded 18.3% of the world’s cases, with 4.3% of the world’s people. India has had 33,200,000 cases, 14.8% of the world’s total, and has 18% of its people, so is getting close to parity. Brazil has had 21 million cases, 9.4% of the world’s total, with 2.8% of the world’s people. So two of the three have far more than their expected share of the pandemic outbreak, indicating very serious failure to manage it. Australia has 0.33% of the world’s people but only 0.033% of the world’s virus cases.

 

 

The world has now recorded 4,600,000 deaths from the virus, an average death rate of 2.1% of those who became infected. 13 countries have each recorded over 100,000 deaths, with a total of 3,200,000 for the group, or 69.5% of world deaths in just 13 countries. These countries have only 37.5% of the world’s people, so have logged up almost double their expected share of deaths. As before, USA, Brazil and India stand out from the rest.

 

 

Some months ago President Biden arranged for the world’s wealthy nations to promise a billion vaccine doses to be supplied to the many poor countries unable to make their own. The instant comment was that about ten times that many would be needed to protect all these countries’ peoples with a double dose, so it was just a token.

 

The continent with the biggest problem of widespread poverty and poor vaccine rollout is Africa, with 49 countries totalling 1.2 billion people, and a recorded total of 7,900,000 virus cases, 0.66% of its people recorded as having been infected - very likely a major under-recording as many of these countries have very primitive medical establishments for diagnosis, or are engaged in civil wars and have dysfunctional governments. Their 1.2 billion people would need 2.4 billion vaccine doses, 2.4 times the impressive total promised at Biden’s summit. By far the worst case is South Africa with over a third of the entire continent’s caseload at 2.85 million. Morocco and Tunisia, with the next largest percentages, had a total of 20% between them. 29 countries reported under 75,000 cases, almost certainly far from the truth.

 

 

South Africa, which has produced its own virus variants, has also recorded by far the largest percentage of the continent’s deaths, 84,650, or 42.3% of Africa’s recorded COVID deaths. Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, next in order of size, are far below South Africa.

 

 

The big topic in the daily news in Australia is our slow vaccination rollout, far behind all other OECD countries. We have just reached 40% of people aged over 16 this week. Only one African country can match that – Morocco, with 44.9%. For 19 of the countries there has been no reporting of vaccination rates at all. 17 of the countries for which there are reports have vaccination rates under 5% and of those, 7 countries are under 1%. Almost certainly, none of them can effectively store Pfizer vaccines at -70oC, especially for rural populations, and quite possibly not even at 5o for Astra Zeneca.

 

As the infection control experts and epidemiologists repeatedly point out, the very low vaccination rates in all these countries will allow large fractions of their populations to be infected and give the virus plenty of opportunity to produce new mutations that are far less vulnerable to our current vaccines and it will all come back to bite us over the next few years.

 

 

Quite possibly the 19 countries providing no information are down at the bottom end of the scale. This is a disaster waiting to happen, not just to them, but eventually to us as well. One such is just across the narrow Torres Strait from us.