News, Culture & Society

Twice as many Australians died of the common flu last year than COVID-19 and the flu in 2020

Twice as many people died of the flu last year than coronavirus and influenza combined in 2020, new data shows.

Social distancing measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 have seen dramatic reductions in the common, seasonal illness.

In New South Wales, Australia’s most populated state, 127 people died of the flu between New Year’s Day and the start of August last year.

Twice as many people died of the flu last year than coronavirus and influenza combined in 2020, new data shows. Pictured is an airline passenger in Sydney who has flown from Melbourne

In 2020 so far, just 12 people have died of influenza, NSW Health data showed.

Another 52 fatalities have been linked to COVID-19.

Australian National University Medical School professor Peter Collignon said social distancing had done more to dramatically reduce flu transmissions than any surge in influenza vaccines

Australian National University Medical School professor Peter Collignon said social distancing had done more to dramatically reduce flu transmissions than any surge in influenza vaccines

This year, the death rate of 64 for the flu and coronavirus combined is just half last year’s influenza fatality rate.

Australian National University Medical School professor Peter Collignon said social distancing and sick people staying home from the office had done more to dramatically reduce flu transmissions than any surge in influenza vaccines.

‘I don’t think it’s the flu shot, it’s actually the physical distancing,’ he told Daily Mail Australia. 

‘The data shows, if you’re more likely to do the right things, which every year we don’t do, you’ll stop respiratory viruses spreading.’ 

Both coronavirus and influenza predominantly kill those aged 65 and over but only one of them, COVID-19, has led to the shutting of Australia’s border to non-citizens and non-residents and the closure of service businesses – sparking the biggest economic meltdown since the 1930s Great Depression.

Professor Collignon said Victoria’s earlier lockdowns in March had been too strict and advocated a policy position between Sweden’s free approach and New Zealand’s, harsher elimination strategy.

‘We can’t close down completely because that would be an overreaction,’ he said. 

Across Australia, there have this year been 20,987 confirmed cases of the flu compared with 23,559 positive cases of COVID-19 – owing mainly to a second wave in Victoria, federal Department of Health data said.

In New South Wales, Australia's most populated state, 127 people died of the flu between New Year's Day and the start of August last year. In 2020 so far, just 12 people have died of influenza, NSW Health data showed. Another 52 fatalities have been linked to COVID-19. This year, the death rate of 64 for the flu and coronavirus combined is just half last year's influenza fatality rate. Pictured is graffiti on a Sydney train downplaying the risk of COVID-19

In New South Wales, Australia’s most populated state, 127 people died of the flu between New Year’s Day and the start of August last year. In 2020 so far, just 12 people have died of influenza, NSW Health data showed. Another 52 fatalities have been linked to COVID-19. This year, the death rate of 64 for the flu and coronavirus combined is just half last year’s influenza fatality rate. Pictured is graffiti on a Sydney train downplaying the risk of COVID-19

By comparison, there have been 3,213 cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, and 8,673 cases of the shingles.

The drop in flu numbers isn’t confined to NSW. 

Victoria’s influenza tally of 4,722 for 2020 so far marks an 89.7 per cent drop from last year’s 45,837 count for January to August.

Victoria doesn’t provide weekly death rates for the flu even though Premier Daniel Andrews delivers daily briefings on COVID-19 fatalities. 

In Queensland, there have been 5,934 cases of the flu in 2020 so far, compared with 66,135 between January and October last year. 

While COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, as the flu is, the coronavirus has a mortality rate that is 10 to 20 times higher than influenza.

‘There’s still lots of things we don’t know,’ Professor Collignon said. 

Across Australia, there have this year been 20,987 confirmed cases of the flu compared with 23,559 positive cases of COVID-19 - owing mainly to a second wave in Victoria, federal Department of Health data said. Pictured is a stock image of a woman sneezing

Across Australia, there have this year been 20,987 confirmed cases of the flu compared with 23,559 positive cases of COVID-19 – owing mainly to a second wave in Victoria, federal Department of Health data said. Pictured is a stock image of a woman sneezing

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk