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Australia still among lowest in COVID-19 deaths as global trend improves

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Australia has been leading the way in having no recent COVID-19 fatalities (Image via Pixabay)

As the coronavirus pandemic enters its second year with only patchy signs of abatement, Australia is one of 24 countries to have recorded zero deaths in February.

Most of the other 23 are poor, developing nations in Africa and Asia. Only three highly developed nations are on this list — Australia, Iceland and Singapore.

This is a smaller group than usual as New Zealand in February suffered its first death since September and Taiwan its second fatality since May.

What makes Australia’s outcome particularly impressive is that Australia – or be more accurate, Victoria – suffered a devastating 455 deaths in August and 234 in September. No other country has recovered from a surge like that. None of the other zero-death nations in 2021 has experienced a major fatal surge at any time since the pandemic emerged a year ago — if their data is accurate.

February’s global outcome contained some positive elements, with total deaths at 297,137. This reverses the worsening global trend over recent months — from 176,601 in October, to 274,872 in November, then 355,452 in December and 412,161 in January. But it remains disturbingly high. See pink graph, below.

(Source: www.worldometers.infor/coronavirus/)

Caveats

This analysis examines all 176 major nations — populations over 300,000 — which have their coronavirus data tabulated by Worldometers. As noted previously, data from poor African nations and some repressive regimes like China and Iran may not be entirely trustworthy. There is no data from North Korea or Turkmenistan.

Best and worst outcomes for the year to date

Looking at January and February together, only 17 countries have recorded zero fatalities. Of these, Australia and Iceland are the only highly developed nations.

At the other end of the table, the 20 countries with the worst deaths per million in 2021 are shown in the blue chart, below. The vast majority – 16 all up – are in Europe, including the nine worst-hit states. The other bottom 20 nations are Panama, Mexico and the USA in the Americas and Lebanon in the Middle East.

(Source: www.worldometers.infor/coronavirus/)

Clearly, Europe remains the 2021 epicentre. Examining the longer list of the 50 worst-hit countries, we find 34 European nations. The Americas are close behind with 11 nations on that list. The other five are Israel, Tunisia, South Africa, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Lebanon.

Impact of the vaccine roll-out

This series accepts the benchmark for success in controlling the pandemic as having deaths below three per million per month. On this measure, the number of successful nations barely changed in February.

Last October, 72 countries lost fewer than three citizens per million. This declined to 68 in November, 59 in December and 57 in January. It increased by one to 58 in February.

The only developed countries in this group of 58 are Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

February’s data suggests that the vaccine roll-out has not yet reduced fatalities dramatically. The nation with the highest vaccination rate by far is Israel which, by the end of February, had given 93.5 jabs per 100 Israelis. Its fatality rate remained high at 105 per million, although down from its all-time high of 160 in January.

The United Arab Emirates fared worse, with its highest-ever monthly death tally in February at 371, a rate of 37 per million. That is up from 97 deaths in December and 181 in January — despite the UAE having the world’s second-highest vaccination rate at 61 jabs per 100 population.

The United Kingdom, with the third-highest jab rate, showed a dramatic improvement in February — admittedly from an appallingly poor position. Deaths in November totalled 11,893. This rose alarmingly in December to 15,064 and soared in January to 32,646. February’s fatalities were just 16,691 — still far too high at 245 per million for the month, but a great improvement.

The United States, with the fourth-highest vaccination rate, at 22.5 per 100 people by 28 February, has shown a similar trajectory. Deaths rocketed from 40,168 in November to 83,070 in December and a disastrous 98,619 in January. This declined substantially to 66,913 in February.

Recent improvements in the UK and the USA may well be attributable more to increased adherence to social distancing and other preventative measures than the vaccine.

Figures in March and the following months will be instructive.

Alan Austin’s defamation matter is nearly over. You can read the latest update here and contribute to the crowd-funding campaign HEREAlan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.

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