COVID-19 news and trends

The numbers


As at 16:23 CEST on Wednesday 7 October, cases confirmed worldwide by national authorities stood at 35,659,007 (271,421 of them reported in the preceding 24 hours). 1,044,269 deaths have been recorded (4427). (Source: WHO Coronavirus Disease Dashboard)

Johns Hopkins University’s Centre of Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) reported (at 14:30 AEST on Thursday 8 October) 36,071,253 confirmed cases and 1,054,674 deaths.


The Department of Health reported on 7 October that national confirmed cases stood at 27,182, a rise of 10 in 24 hours. 897 deaths have been recorded.

State by state: ACT 113 total cases (first case reported 12 March); NSW 4249 (25 January); NT 33 (20 March); Qld 1160 (29 January); SA 472 (2 February); Tas 230 (2 March); Vic 20,237 (25 January); WA 688 (21 February).


Can’t trust the symptoms

Less than great news from University College London: a new study has found that 86% of UK residents who tested positive for COVID-19 during lockdown didn’t have the specific virus symptoms – cough, and/or fever, and/or loss of taste/smell.

The authors thus say a more widespread testing program is needed to catch “silent” transmission and reduce future outbreaks.

Credit: Tang Chhn Sothy / AFP via Getty Images.

The findings, published in the journal Clinical Epidemiology, used data from a large population-based survey looking at the association between COVID-19 symptoms and test results. The population sample of 36,061 was tested between 26 April and 27 June.

The authors say the findings have significant implications for ongoing and future testing programs.

“The fact that so many people who tested positive were asymptomatic on the day of a positive test result calls for a change to future testing strategies,” says UCL’s Irene Petersen. “More widespread testing will help to capture silent transmission and potentially prevent future outbreaks.”

The authors note that several studies have highlighted that a lower proportion of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 are asymptomatic. However, the prevalence of asymptomatic cases varies substantially, possibly due to the sampling and the settings of the study.

For example, the study references how among 262 confirmed cases admitted to hospitals in Beijing, 13 (5%) were asymptomatic. In contrast, reports from a small village in Italy suggest that 40-75% were asymptomatic. A study of 13,000 residents in Iceland found 43 out of 100 with a positive COVID-19 test were asymptomatic.

The COVID blues: not just your imagination

A new study in Frontiers in Psychiatry shows that COVID-19 takes a heavy mental health toll, even on people who are not directly impacted by the disease.

In a first-of-its-kind Australian mental health survey, researchers found that people in countries with low rates of infection and fatalities – like Australia at the onset of the pandemic – still experience twice as much depression and anxiety.

These outcomes are largely related to financial stress and disruptions to people’s social lives.

“We already know from past pandemic research that the people who are most affected, such as those who become ill and/or are hospitalised and their carers, experience more severe impacts,” says lead author Amy Dawel, from the Australian National University.

“However, the impacts of COVID-19 on the broader population in relatively less affected countries are also likely to be substantial.

“Our data show that the by-products of COVID-19 are affecting populations broadly –notwithstanding how great the physical illness impact is – and the concern is that countries with strong restrictions, who appear to circumvent the worst of COVID-19, may overlook the indirect impacts of the pandemic.”

Dawel and her collaborators surveyed nearly 1300 Australian adults in March 2020, when international borders, bars and restaurants were closed, and numbers were limited at social gatherings, including weddings and funerals.

Those surveyed were a representative distribution of the population, with equal numbers of men and women across all age groups over the age of 18 from every Australian state and territory.

Research bites

Pregnant women with COVID-19 can suffer prolonged symptoms – of two months or more – according to US research. In the largest study to date of COVID-19 among non-hospitalised pregnant women, researchers analysed the clinical course and outcomes of 594 women who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus during pregnancy. They found that the most common early symptoms for pregnant women were cough, sore throat, body aches, and fever. Half of the participants still had symptoms after three weeks and 25% had symptoms after eight weeks. The findings are published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. “COVID-19 symptoms during pregnancy can last a long time, and have a significant impact on health and wellbeing,” says senior author Vanessa L Jacoby.

Fluid dynamics
Credit: John Keeble / Getty Images

There’s considerable risk that humans transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus to wildlife, according to an article published in Mammal Review. The authors noted that if SARS-CoV-2 were to infect and spread among wild mammals, it could potentially cause disease in some populations, further endangering already threatened species. If the virus could be sustainably transmitted among some mammalian populations or communities, this would create new animal reservoirs that could repeatedly source new outbreaks in humans and other animals. “We really should avoid turning our pandemic into a multi-species problem,” says lead author Sophie Gryseels, of the universities of Antwerp and Arizona. “It’s difficult enough to control the SARS-CoV-2 in human populations – imagine what it will be like if it spreads among wild mammals.”

A study led by The University of Western Australia has shown that maps routinely produced to track the spread of diseases such as COVID-19 are flawed, resulting in inaccurate targeting of interventions and misallocation of life-saving resources. Published in the International Journal of Health Geographics, the study highlights flaws in global mapping systems that rely on “single-aggregation disease maps”. These maps divide a region (such as a country, state or city) into smaller areas, usually based on arbitrary administrative boundaries such as postcodes. “By focusing on a single ‘segmentation’ of the region, critical inaccuracies are created,” says lead researcher David Whyatt. The new mapping method avoids reliance on any one single-aggregation disease map by combining many maps. The findings of the study have important worldwide implications wherever single-aggregation disease maps are used to guide health policy planning and service delivery.

A study published in Nature Communications suggests that hospitalised COVID-19 patients are more likely to be male and younger, and – in both the US and Spain – to have fewer comorbidities and lower medication use those hospitalised for influenza. The global study included more than 34,000 COVID-19 patients from across three continents. It’s intended to provide greater detail about patients suffering from the disease, and to help inform decision-making around the care of hospitalised patients. “Despite recent discourse around the supposed poor health and limited life expectancy of COVID-19 patients, we see COVID-19 patients to be in no worse health than those typically hospitalised with influenza,” says co-lead author Edward Burn. “This further highlights the high rate of mortality among COVID-19 patients.”

Please login to favourite this article.