Another week with record new case numbers and fatalities in Australia, continuing to be dominated by Victoria. Six vaccine candidates have now reached Phase Three trials globally, whilst locally a Phase Two trial managed by Flinders University has been approved. CPI records the largest drop on record, dominated by free childcare and low petrol prices. And in terms of understanding the disease, there’s increasing evidence of long-term health implications as a result of COVID-19 with an Italian study showing that after 60 days from onset only 13% of patients reported being symptom free.
World Summary – 1 August
- The pandemic new cases grew only 1.4% this week, but still delivered the 4th, 2nd and highest daily new case counts. The global growth rate fell slightly on the easing.
- Deaths were the 6th highest in a week, and deaths as a percentage of new cases (2 week lag) reduced, resuming the trend of recent months.
- 63% of new cases were in the USA, Brazil and India; and nearly 26% were in just 18 other countries with over 10,000 new cases each, headed by South Africa with 69,000, 3.8% of the weekly total, and another welcome reduction in that country.
- USA, Brazil, India and Mexico accounted for 62% of all deaths this week with over 4000 deaths each. Another four countries had over 1,000 deaths each.
- In addition to the US, Brazil and India, there are large uncontrolled outbreaks in five other South and Central American countries, three in the Middle East, two in Eastern Europe and two in S.E. Asia. Elsewhere, large outbreaks have peaked, are coming under control or are controlled.
- Germany, Spain, Netherlands and Belgium are experiencing potentially dangerous new surges that are yet to be controlled.
Australia Summary – 2 August
- Victoria dominates the Australian situation with 3,376 new cases, up 36%, 96% of all new cases this week. It is not clear whether daily new case numbers are flattening as the health experts expected by now, following the Stage Three restrictions. Stage Four restrictions are now being introduced.
- This week topped last week’s highest weekly deaths, all but one in Victoria. Deaths included three males in their 50s.
- NSW had 118 new cases, up 13%. Numbers are refusing to reduce, clusters keep growing and areas affected keep spreading. NSW has extended its strong recommendations into the range of settings that masks should be worn in public, but still no mandate. Woolworths are strongly encouraging customers to wear masks in their stores from Monday.
- Queensland had nine new cases, imported from Victoria by two individuals avoiding quarantine.
- Only Tasmania and ACT had no new cases in the week.
Key market update
- The WHO COVID-19 Emergency Committee unanimously agreed the pandemic remains at the highest rating, a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), and has released several recommendations which include continued mobilisation and collaboration.
- Free childcare and fall in fuel prices cause the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to fall 1.9 percent in the June quarter, the largest drop in its 72 year history.
- The ICA and AFCA have agreed to file a business interruption test case considering the application of infectious diseases cover, primarily to test the applicability of references to the repealed Quarantine Act 1908.
- The US Economy shrunk by 32.9% (annualised) in Q2 2020, its worst quarter since World War II.
- APRA eases some restrictions around paying dividends in its updated capital management guidance to banks and insurers.
- Total payroll jobs decreased by 1.1 per cent in Australia between mid-June and mid-July with Victoria the hardest hit following the latest set of lockdowns.
- Swiss Re amongst a number of companies that released 30 June 2020 results and revealed the impact of COVID-19. The majority of losses being booked as IBNR.
New COVID-19 research this week
- Evidence is emerging of long-term health effects of COVID-19. An Italian study previously hospitalized COVID-19 patients found that after a mean of 60 days after symptom onset and 36 days after hospital discharge, only 13% reported being symptom-free. Fatigue, dyspnea and joint pain were the most common symptoms.
- Meanwhile, two studies showed ongoing cardiovascular problems or heart damage in patients who’d recovered from COVID-19 and in cardiac tissue taken during autopsy.
- An increase in stillbirths was noted in a large London hospital (1.2% pre-pandemic versus 7% pandemic). None occurred among women with documented COVID-19. The authors suggest the cause may be fewer prenatal visits because of hesitance to visit health care facilities.
- Six COVID-19 vaccine candidates have now made it to Phase 3 trials. Researchers plan to enrol 30,000 U.S. adults in Moderna’s Phase Tree trial which started this week and monitor immune responses for two years. Meanwhile a Phase Two trial of COVAX-19, managed by Flinders University in Adelaide, has been approved.
- As the US presidential election approaches, a CDC study in Milwaukee showed that mail-in ballots increased substantially (68% vs 4%) in an April election compared to 2016, but voter numbers fell dramatically (-43%). There was no clear increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, or deaths after the election.
- Hydroxychloroquine has again been found to be ineffective in treating COVID-19 and is associated with significant adverse effects
- S. school closures early in the COVID-19 pandemic were associated with reductions in disease incidence (-62%) and mortality (-58%), though the authors note the study’s limitations, including the potential role of other interventions.
New on the Actuaries Institute website this week.
- Pandemic Briefing – Addressing COVID-19 Impacts on Non-Financial Risks in FCRs
- Actuaries Digital article – The Future of Travel Insurance
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