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Decline in Recorded Covid Deaths in Australia Noted by Health Department and ABS in 2024

According to data from the Department of Health and Aged Care, the first four months of the year have seen a consistent decline in Covid-related deaths, with seven-day rolling averages dropping from approximately 10 in early January to below five by early April.

Since early March, the average number of deaths has remained consistently below five, marking the lowest figures since the initial outbreak of the respiratory virus in March 2020.

Although the data, sourced from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, records deaths associated with the virus, it acknowledges that other chronic conditions or diseases may have also played a role in these fatalities.

Recent statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) regarding Covid mortality, released in late February, also indicate a potential decrease in lethality associated with the virus.

In January 2022, the ABS documented 1646 deaths attributed to Covid, whereas in January 2023, the figure dropped to 753. In January 2024, the number stood at 189, although the ABS cautioned that this figure might rise as additional death registrations were processed.

The ABS noted, “For every month in 2023, deaths due to Covid have been below the level of the comparable month in 2022.”

Despite these promising trends, the Department of Health advises caution in interpreting the seven-day rolling averages due to the decline in Covid testing. They warn that attributing deaths solely to Covid might underestimate the actual mortality rate.

Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Deakin University, Hassan Vally, suggests that the decline in deaths reflects an overall reduction in the threat posed by Covid since its global emergence in March 2020. He attributes this to factors such as improved immunity through vaccination and prior infection, enhanced treatments, and a deeper understanding of the virus.

Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake, an infectious diseases expert at the Australian National University, suggests that the prevalence of the omicron variant may also contribute to the declining numbers. He emphasizes the impact of immunity from both natural infection and vaccination, as well as the availability of antiviral medications like Paxlovid in mitigating severe disease.

However, Senanayake warns that despite these positive developments, Covid remains a persistent threat. He cautions that like influenza, the virus will continue to mutate, potentially leading to significant outbreaks. Nonetheless, effective antiviral treatments remain crucial in protecting vulnerable populations.

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