People exercising at St Kilda Beach, Melbourne (Image: AAP/James Ross)

The world is gradually getting control of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without a vaccine.

Through the month of September, just ended, 23 countries recorded zero deaths. That’s up from 21 in August.

Another 29 nations recorded deaths at a rate lower than one per million inhabitants, and 28 others kept deaths below three per million.

Countries with the pandemic under control — if we take deaths below three per million as our benchmark — reached 80 in September. That’s up from 74 in August. Total deaths globally in September were 158,543, down from 173,778 in August.

So the world is definitely making progress, with some regions doing much better than others.

Europe

Most European nations bordering Italy which were devastated in March and April now have the virus controlled. Deaths per million in September were 7.8 in Switzerland, 6.8 in Italy, 5.5 in Ireland and just 2.4 in Germany. All of these copped deaths per million per month above 70 in April. Ireland and Italy were above 230.

Not all of Europe was so fortunate. France suffered badly in September with 1,321 deaths at twenty per million and Spain even worse with 2,697 deaths at 58 per million.

The Americas

The most glaring revelation from September’s data is that the Americas — North, South and Central — are now far and away the worst-hit part the world.

Total deaths worldwide in September were 158,543. Just six American nations — with 9.9% of the world’s population — accounted for more than half of these.

They were the USA (24,134 deaths), Brazil (22,581), Mexico (13,005), Argentina (8,439), Colombia (6,634) and Ecuador (4,799). Of the 16 countries with the most deaths per million, 13 were in the Americas.

Data reliability

The best information we have available is from Worldometers, which each day updatestotal infections, active cases, deaths, recoveries and tests completed. The data there is, of course, only as reliable as the agencies in each source country. We must accept that several nations cannot report infections and deaths accurately, including some which showed zero deaths in September.

These include poor African countries Burundi, Eritrea and Niger which have basic health facilities, and China which, with 1.44 billion people spread across 9.6 million square kilometres, seems unlikely to have had no deaths at all.

So for deeper analysis, we shall focus again — as we did here a month ago — on the 54 countries classified by the UN Development Program as very highly developed.

Leading nations worldwide

Of these advanced nations, the five which survived September without a coronavirus fatality were Estonia, Iceland and Luxembourg in Europe, and Singapore and Taiwan in Asia. Two kept deaths below one per million: Malaysia with nine deaths and New Zealand with three.

Other nations to keep deaths below three per million were Finland, Latvia, Cyprus, Norway, Lithuania, Germany and Slovakia in Europe, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong in Asia and Uruguay in South America.

Worst outcomes among advanced nations

Only nine nations lost more than 30 citizens per million in September.

Those with deaths between 30 and 70 were Bulgaria, Bahrain, Oman, Spain, Romania and Israel.

Just three countries fared worse than 70 deaths per million: the USA (73), Chile (76) and Argentina (186).

Australia below the global median

The surge of infections and deaths in Victoria began in late July and peaked in early September on one disastrous day, September 4, when 59 deaths were recorded.

Fortunately the trajectory has been much more positive since. The seven-day moving average on September 30 was down to just four.

Australia recorded 234 deaths in September at a rate of 9.2 per million. That is much better than August’s 455 death tally at 17.8 per million, which was an average of 14.7 per day. Of the 54 highly developed countries, Australia ranked 29 th in September, just outside the top half.

The USA still lagging badly

The USA ranked 52nd out of the 54 advanced nations, with 23,134 deaths at a rate of 73 per million. Only Chile (1452 deaths at 76 per million) and Argentina (8439 deaths at 186 per million) had worse rates.

September confirms that most governments which are following the science, speaking the truth to their citizens and implementing appropriate preventative and remedial strategies are making progress. But not all. Random surges are still bedeviling several nations, despite their best efforts.

Those regimes not yet following the science, not being straight with their people and not implementing the recommended policies are experiencing serious and worsening outcomes.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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