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Australian COVID infection levels could be five times higher, study says

An Australia National University (ANU) study has found while Australia was leading the way in COVID-19 detection, infection levels may have been five times higher than originally reported by August.

The same research, in collaboration with Ikigai Research and the University of Melbourne, found infection rates in Italy were up to 17 times higher than reported.

ANU co-author Professor Quentin Grafton said the study estimated around 800 million people were infected by the virus, across the 11 European countries, Australia, South Korea, Canada and the USA.

“We found COVID-19 infections are much higher than confirmed cases across many countries, and this has important implications for both control and the probability of infection,” Professor Grafton said.

“Our analysis has found more than 5.4 million in the UK – 8% of the population – are or have been infected with the coronavirus.”

In order to come to their conclusions, researchers used “backcasting” from the number of deaths in a country and then worked backwards to how many people would have been infected for those deaths to occur.

The method is alleged to provide a 95% confidence interval in the estimated infection rate.

Professor Grafton said that model found Australia’s level of infection may have been under-reported by up to five times, comparable to the 907 fatalities. 

“In Australia, our modelling shows the actual rate of infected and recovered people at the end of August may have been five times higher than reported, with 0.48% of the population, or up to 130,000 people, possibly infected,” he said.  

“That’s much higher than the confirmed proportion of 0.10% of the population.

“These findings raise serious questions about how we deal with all facets of the coronavirus pandemic, including ongoing morbidity and life-long health impacts for people who have been infected, how we implement and manage lockdowns, and how we make sure we are on top of this pandemic more broadly.”

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