18 December 2022
As we near the end of 2022, we remain optimistic that COVID is becoming more predictable and manageable. We are shifting away from intense COVID response to more usual disease control mechanisms, health services systems and structures.
In his role with Aspen Medical Advisory Services, Professor Paul Dugdale's recent analysis of cases and death numbers illustrates our COVID maturity:
In the Australian COVID wave of August 2020, peak cases were 500 per day and peak deaths were 20 per day (i.e., 4% of cases). In the current wave there are 15,000 cases per day and 30 deaths per day (i.e., 0.2% of cases). In other words, the death rate for people with notified COVID in August 2020 was approximately 20 times the death rate for people who have notified COVID now. Given the fall in the proportion of cases notified, from at least 80% in 2020 to a maximum of 40% now, we can say people who had COVID in August 2020 were 40 times more likely to die than people who have COVID now.
The reduction in death rate is in part due to weakening severity of the virus, and in large part due to hybrid immunity (from infection and vaccination) and the substantial changes in population health-related behaviour. Our new normal is a deep understanding of physical distancing, hand hygiene, rapid antigen testing, and staying home when unwell.
COVID is unlikely to be the great health disrupter of 2023 but still poses a significant, ongoing risk to the world.
As we gather this Christmas with family and friends, we embrace a more manageable approach to COVID. Enjoy a safe and happy Christmas.