According to the ABS, “excess mortality” is the difference between the number of deaths in a period of time, and the number of deaths expected in the same period.
The December ABS report showed 116,345 deaths were recorded by doctors between January 1 and October 27, 2020, compared to a 2015-19 average of 117,484.
Doctor-registered deaths include deaths related to respiratory disease, dementia and chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
January 1 – October 27, 2020
Average over the past five years for the same period
All deaths are certified by a doctor, including COVID-19
Ischemic heart disease
Respiratory disease, excluding COVID-19
Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease
Source: ABS transient mortality statistics
“In 2020 when the initial wave of the pandemic hit, we had an increase in the number of deaths and the increase only lasted for about a month,” said ABS director of health and mortality statistics James Eynstone-Hinkins.
“After that, what we actually saw was a significantly lower number of deaths during the winter months through October, which is the most recent data we have now.
“What we can see is that the causes of death are lowest compared to previous years, mostly in the respiratory disease group, so it can include chronic lower respiratory diseases, such as influenza and pneumonia.
The statistics do not include deaths referred to coroners, such as accidents, assaults and suicides, which according to Eynstone-Hinks typically account for about 10-15 percent of deaths in Australia.
What happened to influenza?
Federal Department of Health figures show that last year’s laboratory-confirmed influenza cases to the end of November saw 37 deaths, a 50 percent drop from the five-year average.
There were 21,266 laboratory confirmed influenza notifications to National Notifiable Disease Control System in the year to the end of the 2020 influenza season, which is almost eight times less than the five-year average of 163,015.
Deakin University’s chairperson for epidemiology Catherine Bennett said Australia was heading for an early influenza season before COVID-19 arrived, but the restrictions imposed in response to the pandemic were slowing the transmission of not only the coronavirus, but other infectious diseases as well.
“Because we worked earlier and harder with our restrictions, we weren’t just preventing a lot of deaths from COVID – we were seeing 900 or more [COVID-related] death – but at the same time we prevent much more, “said Professor Bennett.
“In the process, by bringing in the initial flu vaccine and only the effects of restriction, isolation, extra hygiene that are practiced by people, we are also reducing deaths from flu and other infectious diseases, particularly respiratory, real-life deaths.”
Without boundaries and physical distance, Professor Bennett said Australia would record the same number of deaths from influenza as in previous years, as well as “more” deaths from COVID-19 than 900.
“The net effect for Australia is much more positive than overseas where they are less able to prevent COVID-19 deaths.”
When was the turning point?
In May, the number of excess deaths in Australia started to decline.
“Australian figures actually look pretty close to the average over the last five years, but actually this is the period after May, before the second wave. [in Victoria] and after a second wave where we saw the net effect which was a decrease in reported deaths, “said Professor Bennett.
He said it shows the positive health impacts of social distancing and hand hygiene.
“I definitely hope one of the legacies that we see [from the COVID pandemic] is that people are more aware of distance, keeping your distance from other people, hand hygiene, and even masks if you are in a crowded place.
“The workplace understands their importance not to make people sick; whatever it is, you don’t want your other staff to get sick.”
Mental health warnings
Experts have expressed concern about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the mental health of Australians and have warned of a potential spike in the number of deaths from suicide.
Suicidal deaths are not included in the ABS mortality statistics because they are referred to the coroner and it takes longer to record the cause of death.
As for the death toll, Pakistan’s Covid-19 death toll jumped to 10,863, with most of the deaths reported in Punjab, followed by Sindh. At least 2,294 Covid-19 patients are currently in critical condition.
Separation by province
Detailed data by NCOC province reveal the positive ratio for Lahore is at 6.69 percent, Rawalpindi at 4.04 percent, 2.52 percent in Faisalabad, 4.25 percent in Multan and 5.26 percent for Bahawalpur in Punjab.
In Sindh, Karachi’s positivity ratio was recorded at 15.97 percent and 8.01 percent in Hyderabad.
As for KP, a positivity ratio of 13.62 percent was recorded in Peshawar, 3.65 percent in Swat and 3.45 percent in Abbottabad.
In Balochistan, Quetta’s positivity ratio is recorded at 1.87 percent. Meanwhile, the positive ratio at Mirpur AJK reached 11.49 percent and 5.56 percent in Muzaffarabad.
The case fatality rate (CFR) for Pakistan is 2.12 percent compared to 2.14 percent globally. Approximately 69 percent of patients who died from the virus were male and 77.6 percent of all who died were over 50 years of age.
Head of the NCOC, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, on January 12, referenced to several countries that witnessed the third wave of Covid-19 and appealed to Pakistanis to continue to follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) to contain the spread of the virus.
The federal minister stated that the second wave of the virus was worse in countries such as the US and UK and warned other countries to continue to act responsibly.
In addition, Asad Umar highlighted that the federal government had warned the public about a second wave of the virus in October.
“In November, we saw the number of cases increase rapidly and took steps at the end of November regarding the sectors / activities that caused the increase, including restaurants, wedding halls and educational institutions,” he added.
Prime Minister Imran Khan and other government officials have also repeatedly urged the masses to be very careful and comply with the Covid-19 SOPs to reduce the spread of the virus.
In the effort to administer the coronavirus vaccine, the Deep South is falling behind
Coronavirus vaccines have been rolled out unevenly across the US, but four states in the Deep South have dire inoculation rates that worry health experts and frustrate residents.
In Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina, less than 2 percent of the population has received the first dose of the vaccine earlier in the week, according to data from the state and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As in other parts of the country, the southern states face a number of challenges: a limited supply of vaccines, health workers refusing to be inoculated and a bureaucratic system that is not equipped to schedule the large number of appointments that are being sought.
But other states are still succeeding – to the best of their ability – to deliver vaccines to more than 5 percent of their population.
While it’s unclear why the Deep South is lagging behind, public health researchers note that it is typically lagging behind in public health funding and filling gaps in care for large rural populations.
“When you combine the large percentage of rural residents who tend to be populations that are difficult to reach and have a lower number of providers trying to build vaccine infrastructure quickly, that’s just a recipe for a not very good response,” said Sarah McCool, a professor of public health at Georgia State University.
In Georgia, the state’s rural health system has been in ruins in recent years, with nine hospital closings since 2008, including two years ago. The local health department has become the main vaccine provider in several locations, as officials work to increase the locations where doses can be administered.
“If we were the only game in town, this process would take a long time,” Lawton Davis, the director of the large public health district covering Savannah, said at a news conference Monday.
Alabama and Mississippi have also been hit badly by rural hospital closings. Seven hospitals have been closed in Alabama since 2009 and six in Mississippi since 2005, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina’s Sheps Center. Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi rank in the bottom five of US states in terms of their access to health care, according to a 2020 report from the nonprofit linked to insurance giant UnitedHealth.
But overall, experts say it is too early in the vaccine rollout to draw conclusions about shortages in the region, and they cannot easily be attributed to any particular factor or trend.