COVID-19 Monday Roundup 22 June 2020

The pandemic accelerated this week with more than one million new cases globally. One million Melbourne residents have been asked not to travel outside known hotspots, while the Grattan Institute backs State border closures. The global insurance sector has remained resilient during the pandemic, but weather forecast quality has declined. Early results for the drug dexamethasone bring some hope.


World Summary – 20 June

  • The pandemic accelerated this week with new cases growing 18%. There were more than one million new cases this week. 40% of new cases are from Brazil and USA.
  • Deaths grew to the 6th highest weekly tally in the pandemic, and the highest since 9 May. New deaths in Brazil were 160% of new deaths in the US while new deaths in India and Mexico were 90% of those in the US.
  • Brazil’s outbreak passed one million. Russia’s is half a million.
  • 18 (+2, Bangladesh, Canada) countries have outbreaks of 100,000+ and a further 46 (+5, Guatemala, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Honduras, Czechia) countries have outbreaks of 10,000+.
  • Central America Mainland and Southern Africa remain the fastest growing regional outbreaks with growth rates of over 10%. In these regions, the pandemic is becoming much more widespread.
  • New Zealand is no longer virus-free, after two women arriving from the UK and released early from quarantine on compassionate grounds tested positive.


Australia Summary – 21 June

  • New cases more than doubled this week to 142. Over 80% of these were in Victoria, principally from pockets of family transmission. More than one million Melbourne residents have been asked not to travel outside six local hotspots, and further restrictions may be announced with Victorian school holidays starting this weekend.
  • NSW had 22 (-2) new cases, of which 21 were returned travellers in hotel quarantine. Queensland had 1 (-2) new case and WA had 2 (+1).  SA, ACT, Tasmania and  NT had no new cases.
  • Average daily tests have risen substantially to between 25,000 and 30,000, and discovery rates have risen slightly to 0.06%.
  • According to Citimapper’s mobility index (20 June), mobility in Sydney leapt to 48% of pre-lockdown levels and Melbourne rose to 37%. This makes Sydney the 5th and Melbourne the 14th most mobile cities tracked.


Key market updates

  • A Grattan Institute report models alternative pathways out of the pandemic for Australia, highlighting re-opening of large workplaces as a risky strategy, and backing States’ choices to retain border closures. It recommends sick leave entitlements to casual workers and offers seven recommendations to strengthen health sector resilience, including increased telehealth and hospital-in-the-home.
  • Prime Minister Scott Morisson revealed that Australia is currently being targeted with a large-scale cyber attack by a foreign government. ASIC has issued another scam alert following an increase in crypto-scams.
  • Australia’s unemployment rate increased to 7.1% in May from 5.2% in March and 6.4% in April, with seasonally adjusted employment declining by 227,700 people between April and May.
  • The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Leading Index, which projects the likely pace of economic activity three to nine months ahead, sits at -4.79% compared to Australia’s trend rate of 2.8%.
  • NSW and Queensland Health ministers announced additional budgets to fast-track elective surgeries delayed by COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Parliament passed an Extension Bill to provide additional time for financial advisers to meet the qualification and examination requirements set by the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA).
  • To combat misleading claims and predatory behaviour, ASIC will actively monitor financial services advertising during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Fitch reviewed around 270 insurance companies globally, highlighting overall resiliency in the sector. Results varied by segment with non-life insurers faring better than life insurers who are more exposed to investment markets.
  • The US Society of Actuaries released a brief on COVID-19 exploring the impacts on different types of insurances, as well as an in depth look at US data on the pandemic.


New COVID-19 research this week

  • In a major treatment breakthrough, initial trial results show that a cheap and readily available drug, dexamethasone has reduced mortality by one-third in patients on ventilators and by one-fifth for patients requiring only oxygen. The results are part of the Recovery trial which is testing five different drugs in large scale trials.
  • The US Food & Drug Administration has revoked Emergency Use Authorization for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, saying the drugs are unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19, and carry the risk of serious side effects. It also warned that chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine should not be administered with remdesivir as this may reduce remdesivir’s effectiveness.
  • A study of Dutch families suggests children do not play an important role in virus transmission. Most transmissions occurred between adults and to a lesser extent between parents and children, with little transmission between children or from children to adults. A Swedish study found low prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in children aged 5-9 years.
  • People with Blood Type A have a far higher risk of COVID-19-induced respiratory failure, while those with Blood Type O have significantly lower risk.
  • UK statistics show the COVID-19 mortality of females and males whose daily activity was ‘limited a lot’ by disability was respectively 2.4 and 1.9 times those without disability.
  • Researchers in China have constructed a tool (COVID-GRAM) to predict which patients will develop critical illness. Earlier prediction of critical illness could improve patient outcomes.
  • The benefits of breast-feeding outweigh the risk of transmitting COVID-19 from mother to infant, according to the WHO. Viral fragments have been detected in breastmilk, but live virus has not.
  • Colorectal cancer screening has dropped 86% in the US since COVID-19. Most screenings in the US are done by colonoscopy and the authors argue for a switch to non-invasive methods such as the faecal immunochemical test used in other wealthy countries. Separately, modelling suggests there may be a 1% increase in cancer-related deaths in the US due to delayed diagnosis and treatment.
  • The dramatic drop in commercial aircraft travel, which provide weather observations critical for forecasting, has reduced the quality of weather forecasts. Some experts are concerned hurricanes will be more difficult to predict in the upcoming US season.
  • Rural areas could face a greater strain on their healthcare systems and a higher per capita burden of COVID-19 than urban areas according to US modelling.
  • Global and local estimates of the number of people with risk factors that increase mortality from COVID-19 are presented in this study.
  • For background and great charts on why Sweden’s voluntary approach to prevent spread of the virus hasn’t worked, read on.


New on the Actuaries Institute website this week.

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