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Coronavirus – a tale of two countries – March 19

Coronavirus – A tale of two countries and a jump in the rate of case identification.

South Korea was affected early in the pandemic when several hundred cases broke out among the members of a religious group with ties to Wuhan. Now, two months later, they are quoting a death rate of 0.5%.

More recently, we were shocked to see Italy succumb to a sudden overwhelming outbreak with a quoted death rate of around 8%. The latest figures are 2500 deaths in 31,500 cases.

How come such a difference?

The first reason is called the denominator effect, under- identification – this raises the apparent death rate because a lot more people actually had it than were identified. That’s one reason.

The other reason is the “leakiness” of the country. Italy and Australia have been easy countries to fly to. The virus has been able to spread in the background (possibly through schools) and suddenly emerge.

The current growth has gone from 18% increase each day last week to 30% per day over the past two days, largely due to a huge increase in the big cities. I expect 1000 cases across Australia by the weekend.

‘Behind South Korea’s success so far has been the most expansive and well-organized testing program in the world, combined with extensive efforts to isolate infected people and trace and quarantine their contacts. South Korea has tested more than 270,000 people, which amounts to more than 5200 tests per million inhabitants—more than just about any other country in the World’.

Our Government has been reluctant to spend that much in testing, travel limitation and case identification.

David Rose and Terry Rose