29 June 2020
COVID-19 deaths may be higher than official tally
Welcome back to The Medical Republic‘s live COVID-19 blog.
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- Afternoon update: An excess of 800 deaths in the first quarter of 2020 points to higher-than-recorded COVID-19 fatalities.
- Morning update: 3% of returned travellers in NSW have tested positive to COVID-19 since late March, global record set for number of new infections in 24 hours, and WHO warns of COVID-19 ‘infodemic’.
- With 49 new cases reported yesterday, Victoria rolls out a fleet of mobile testing vans.
- Could the actual death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic in Australian been much higher than official figures? Writing in The Conversation, epidemiologist Professor Catherine Bennet from Deakin University has highlighted that in the first quarter of this year, Australia recorded 800 more deaths than the average for the same period in the previous five years; 33,066 doctor-certified deaths compared with an average of 32,249. However the official tally of deaths from COVID-19 in Australia currently stands at 104.
The data shows that for most of the quarter the number of deaths was, while higher than average, still within the range of previous five years. However at the very end of March, the numbers of death are higher than the same week in any of those preceding years
Professor Bennet said the higher-than-expected death rate may be the result of unaccounted COVID-19 deaths, but could also be deaths indirectly related to COVID-19; for example, resulting from the deferral of elective surgeries, people delaying health care or hospital visits, or even increased fatalities from domestic violence or suicide.
- In New South Wales, 3% of returned travellers in hotel quarantine have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 29 when hotel quarantine become mandatory. A total of 11,882 returned travellers have been screened, both on arrival and on day 10 of quarantine.
- The last 24 hours have seen a record number of new COVID-19 cases globally, according to the World Health Organisation, with 189,077 new cases bringing the global tally to just over 9.8 million and nearly half a million deaths.
- One side effect of the pandemic has been an ‘infodemic’ – an ‘overabundance of information’ – which has prompted the WHO to organise its first ever infodemiology conference on how to manage the situation.
“Like pathogens in epidemics, misinformation spreads further and faster and adds complexity to health emergency response,” the WHO said in a statement. “To respond effectively to infodemics, WHO calls for adaptation, development, validation and evaluation of new evidence-based measures and practices to prevent, detect and respond to mis- and disinformation.”
While the conference itself will be a closed session, there will be a public webinar on 21 July 2020 to present the outcomes of the discussions.
- Victoria is deploying a fleet of testing vans staffed by more than 800 personnel to increase testing for COVID-19 in local hotspots, after more than 110 infections were detected over the weekend. New cases include a healthcare worker at Royal Melbourne Hospital, but the Victorian health department stressed that individual had been wearing appropriate PPE, so the risk of transmission was minimal and the situation would not disrupt services at the hospital.
The Federal Government’s COVID-19 count now shows the number of locally-acquired and overseas-acquired active cases of infection in the last seven days, as well as the number of tests conducted in the last 24 hours and in total. Here’s the tally of Australia’s confirmed COVID-19 infections to 9pm yesterday:
National – 7686, with 104 deaths and 6993 recovered
ACT – 108
NSW – 3177
NT – 29
QLD – 1067
SA – 440
TAS – 228
VIC – 2028
WA – 609