Cosmos checks out the data, stories and new research into COVID-19 emerging around the world.
What’s the data today?
Globally, there are 600,555,262 confirmed cases and 6,472,914 confirmed deaths from COVID-19.
In Australia, over 95% of eligible Australians have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
More than 70% of people over 16 have received a booster, and over 39% of eligible people have received a fourth dose.
There are 111,081 estimated active cases in Australia (decreasing).
Of these, 2,937 (decreasing) are hospitalised, 84 (decreasing) are in ICU and 24 (decreasing) are currently ventilated.
There have been over 10 million cases of COVID-19 in Australia, and 13,902 deaths. Data.
COVID-19 cases and deaths per million people
COVID news in brief
Requiring a negative RAT is better for the community
While Australia has cut the required isolation period to five days (from seven previously), pre-print research from the University of Auckland may suggest requiring a negative rapid antigen test to leave isolation has better community benefits. While the research is yet to be peer-reviewed, it does suggest a test-to-release requirement alongside minimum isolation lengths could reduce the number of infectious people released into the community by 40%.
“Rapid Antigen Tests are the best tool we have to tell if people are still infectious, so it is possible to tailor an isolation period to when people are infectious. Some people could leave isolation sooner than seven days, some people will need to isolate for longer,” says researcher Dr Emily Harvey.
“When RATs are positive, you are likely infectious, because we now know that false positives are vanishingly unlikely.”
Study in kids to help guide best-practice vaccination in under 18s
A new national study will seek to determine an optimal strategy for vaccinating people under 18 years. $3.8 million has been given to Perth’s Telethon Kids Institute from the commonwealth Medical Research Future Fund and will investigate what vaccine combinations provide the best protection for children, among other study areas.
“We are also hoping this research will reveal if a past COVID-19 infection provides a similar level of natural immunity against the virus as vaccination, or if an annual booster will be required for kids, just like the flu vaccine,” says study lead Dr Charlie McLeod.
COVID-19 has greater impacts on child mortality, parent death in low-income countries
Separate studies have highlighted the disproportionate COVID-19 burden borne by lower income nations.
In one carried out by US-based Global Financing Facility for Women, Children, and Adolescents, the pandemic-related child death and maternal mortality was associated with declining use of essential health services. The research led by Dr Tashrik Ahmed suggests the pandemic has reversed years of positive social and health games for women and children.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed years of progress in the health of women and children, especially those in the most vulnerable communities,” says Dr. Ahmed.
Meanwhile research from Australian National University has found children are more likely to be orphaned by COVID-19 in low-income nations.
While estimates suggest up to 1,900 young people in Australia have lost at least one parent during the pandemic, the rate is much higher in parts of continents like Africa.
Angola, for instance, has seen more than two hundred children lose a parent per 100 deaths. Australia’s comparison is 13 per 100.
“We think of COVID-19 as a disease that largely affects older people, but we have forgotten about the young people and children that are left behind,” says lead researcher Callum Lowe.
“COVID-19 has spread to almost every country on the globe but there continue to be huge disparities about the effect on different countries.”
Denmark: Third mRNA vaccine is more effective against Omicron infection
Research from the Danish Statens Serum Institut has found a third dosage of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is more effective against Omicron subvariant infections.
The study reviewed Danes aged 12 and above, to determine a third vaccine dose was nearly 60% better at preventing Omicron infection, compared to just under 40% effectiveness from two doses.
A third dose is necessary to maintain protection against infection for a longer time and to ensure a high level of protection against COVID-19 hospitalization with the Omicron variant,” says study lead Mie Agermose Gram.
“Despite being less effective against infection with Omicron than previous variants, a third mRNA COVID-19 vaccine dose offers better protection against Omicron infection than two doses and protects well against COVID-19 hospitalisation.”
CSIRO says workforce development is key to pandemic preparation
Australia’s peak scientific research body has pointed to a range of areas that could benefit from investment if the country is to successfully prepare prepare for the next pandemic and avoid the $144 billion economic hit and thousands of lives lost during COVID-19.
Australia trims COVID-19 isolation period
Assuming a person is symptom free, they will now be able to exit isolation five days after a positive test for COVID-19, following a decision made by Australia’s national cabinet. It brings Australia into line with nations like the United States, but is there any actual science behind the decision?