Doubled Death Toll Than Previous 2 Years

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The number of deaths from Covid-19 in Australia this year to date has reached more than double the deaths from 2020 and 2021 combined, reports The Guardian.

Soaring death toll

According to federal health department data as of 18 April, 6,786 people have died of Covid-19 in Australia since the beginning of the pandemic. Of these deaths, 4,547 occurred in 2022 – more than double the 2,239 deaths recorded over the first two years of the pandemic.

Easing restrictions

Prof Adrian Esterman, a biostatistician at the University of South Australia, said the figures were unsurprising given the high transmission of Covid in recent months. He criticised a relaxation of policies on face masks and social distancing, which he said was sending the message to the general public that the pandemic was over.

“Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t know that. We’re still seeing thousands of people being infected; we’re seeing many, many people ending up in hospital,” he said.

“Yes, it’s no longer an absolute acute emergency like it was, because we have a large percentage of our population vaccinated and we’ve got better treatments. But the fact of the matter is it’s still there. We could still get another variant coming along tomorrow, which is worse than Delta.”

Omicron Vs Delta

Though the Omicron variant results in less severe disease on an individual level compared with Delta, its high transmissibility had led to vast numbers of infections, Esterman said. “If even only a small percentage of those get severely ill, end up in hospital or die, they’re still big numbers and that’s what we’re seeing. It’s not only hospitalisation and deaths – it’s long Covid [too].”

Hassan Vally, an associate professor of epidemiology at Deakin University, said despite the death figures, the implications of getting infected were not the same as two years ago.

“The relationship we have to the Sars-CoV-2 virus is very different now to how it was in March 2020,” he said. “When we give people immunity, we change the risk calculus; this was the main reason for vaccinating the community. We wanted to reduce the risk, even if people get infected, of going on to develop severe disease and die.

“We’re moving away from the emergency response phase in terms of responding to Covid-19 and we’re transitioning to the disease control phase, which involves implementing more sustainable measures to control transmission.

Sustainable interventions

“We should be focusing more on interventions that are sustainable – that is, ones that we can maintain as we get back to living our lives normally. The most important of these are being vaccinated and wearing masks in high-risk environments.”

Vally said that due to the inaccuracy of reported case numbers, which likely only captured a fraction of all infections, death figures were currently “the most robust indicator of how we’re tracking”.

The figures come as the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, suggested the peak of the state’s latest Omicron wave had passed. Andrews told reporters in Wangaratta on Tuesday: “The seven day average is very pleasingly coming down, so that says to me … that the peak has come and gone. We just have to wait and see though that those few days of data turn into the trend that we hope that it is.”

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Source: The Guardian

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