Australia records lowest seven-day Covid death rate for more than two years | Health

Australia has recorded its lowest Covid death rate for more than two years, according to federal health department data that dates back to January 2022.

The latest data on the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System shows that between Thursday 29 February and Saturday 2 March, and on 5 and 6 March, the seven-day rolling average for Covid deaths was zero. One death was recorded on 3 March. The average is used to indicate short-term trends and is calculated by dividing the number of deaths in the previous seven days by seven and rounding to the nearest whole number. Up to three deaths in seven days results in a rolling average of zero.

A spokesperson for the department of health said: “Death data may have a delay in confirming death notifications publicly reported by states and territories, particularly for the last two weeks from the date the webpage is updated, and recent data will be subject to revision.”

Nonetheless, the data shows coronavirus deaths and hospitalisations are at a low.

Associate Prof Sanjaya Senanayake, an infectious diseases specialist at the Australian National University, said a combination of vaccine-induced immunity and immunity from infection with Omicron subvariants had reduced levels of severe disease.

“These latest figures showing no Covid-19-related deaths for at least a week and low hospitalisations for the first time in years is great news but not unexpected,” he said.

“In addition, the free early access to antivirals such as Paxlovid to people at risk of severe Covid-19 has further put Australia in a great position to dampen severe disease from this virus.”

Senanayake said like influenza, Covid would mutate, which could lead to future significant outbreaks.

“However, even if this occurs, we still have effective antivirals to protect people at risk,” he said.

An epidemiologist with Deakin University, Associate Prof Hassan Vally, said: “The fact that the weekly number of deaths from Covid-19 fell to zero for the first time since pretty much the beginning of the pandemic does seem like a significant milestone worth acknowledging”.

“It serves as a clear indicator of where we are now when it comes to this disease that turned our lives upside down, and it highlights how much the overall threat that Covid-19 poses to us as a population has fallen,” he said.

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Although Australia was in its best position with respect to Covid-19 for some time, it was not time to be complacent, said Prof Adrian Esterman, the University of South Australia’s chair of biostatistics and epidemiology.

“Last month there were over 250 active Covid-19 outbreaks in residential aged care homes, and only 36% of Australians aged 75 and over have had a booster shot within the last six months,” he said.

“We see very little messaging from any of our governments encouraging elderly people to get vaccinated. This is not good enough. We should, at the very least, still be doing all we can to protect our vulnerable population.”

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data states that 21,827 of the 687,639 death registrations between March 2020 and January 2024 were people who died from Covid or with Covid as a contributing cause.

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