COVID-19 update



Cases confirmed worldwide by national authorities stand at 634,835 (63,159 of them reported in the preceding 24 hours). 29,957 deaths have been recorded (3464). (Source: WHO Situation Report 69; at 10:00 CET on Sunday 29 March)

Johns Hopkins University’s Center of Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) reported (at 13:30 AEDT on Monday 30 March) 721,817 confirmed cases and 33,968 deaths. 


At 06:00 AEDT on Monday 30 March.

Nationwide, confirmed cases stand at 4093, a rise of 284 in 24 hours. 16 deaths have been recorded. More than 214,000 tests have been conducted.

ACT 77 cases (first case reported 12 March); NSW 1918 (25 January); NT 14 (20 March); Qld 656 (29 January); SA 287 (2 February); Tas 61 (2 March); Vic 769 (25 January); WA 311 (21 February).


Scientific work – and reporting about it – is looking ahead and behind as the pandemic progresses, with many studies assessing past events and research to inform and shape current practices and responses.

Aiming to keep laboratories and their staff as safe as possible, surgical pathologist Stefan Pambuccian, of Loyola University Chicago, US, reviewed data and research dating back to the 1918-19 Spanish flu outbreak for his paper The COVID-19 pandemic: Implications for the Cytology laboratory.

Closer to home, the University of Adelaide has compiled recommendations for best practice for infection prevention and control in healthcare settings. The JBI COVID-19 Special Collection summarises current best evidence and provides detailed information about methods of hand washing with soap and water, hand rubbing with alcohol solution and when and how to wear personal protective equipment.

Among matters raising concern from multiple sources in multiple countries are shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline medical staff. 

“The main problem is surge demand, and the ability of both manufacturers and the logistics to get the supplies to where they are needed,” says Adamm Ferrier, a lecturer in public health at Victoria’s La Trobe University. “These are compounded by a number of factors including inappropriate use (potential demand for use by people not having direct patient care), hoarding, and the move in recent years to hospitals progressively reducing the amount of capital sitting on shelves.”

Ferrier adds that the PPE needed to treat people with coronavirus depends on the situation but “essentially it is that for which any contagious agent that is spread by respiratory droplets” – and refers people to the the Australian Government recommendations.


It’s been a busy few weeks for people considering how data-driven modelling of disease can influence outcomes, as writers Martin Enserink and Kai Kupferschmidt report.

Johns Hopkins University last week published a report considering the lessons of COVID-19 on disease outbreak modelling. “The purpose of this report is to characterise the origin and implications of the disconnect between modelers and public health decision makers and to develop a plan for the expansion of outbreak science as a capability to support public health,” wrote the authors. 

Among more controversial proposals is the use of smartphone location data to assist contact tracing – a practice already employed in Israel. American academics Shashi Shekar and Apurv Hirsh Shekar first argued the case for it – since republished several times – in The MIT Press Reader.


Work on the form, nature and behaviour of the virus continues on many fronts; good journalism about it is arguably rarer. In recent days New Yorker article about the coronavirus family – and its latest known member, in particular – is noteworthy.

Scientists are in the news in unprecedented numbers, and it’s good to see that the spirit of innovation is strong. Swinburne University astrophysicist Daniel Reardon admits that his efforts had at least a little to do with trying to alleviate self-isolation boredom.

Who’d have thought that short, smartphone-shot videos of British cities with a background sound of clapping and cheering could be so compelling? Imagine what we’ll find enthralling after all this is over…

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