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Earlier this month the Morrison government released the Doherty Institute modelling that has informed its decisions to date.1 The modelling highlighted the potential for COVID-19 cases to rise rapidly across Australia in the absence of policy responses such as social distancing. Of course, Australia has enacted social distancing and progressively locked down the country, and, as a result, has seen a sharp ‘flattening of the curve’ in the number of positive cases of COVID-19.

In this short report, KPMG Economics examine global COVID-19 deaths, cases and resulting case fatality ratios (CFRs) to better understand the drivers of the variation, and the extent to which Australia’s relatively good performance is a result of good luck, good management, or a combination of both.

Key highlights

  • Australia’s COVID-19 death rates are low by global standards.
  • One reason for Australia’s effective performance can be traced to our health system capability and preparedness, where we rank in the top 10 percent of all countries. KPMG analysis found that this is strongly related to lower death rates. This is probably a function of both good management of our health system, as well as some good luck that we have the wealth to invest in our health care system.
  • Where Australia is perhaps not so lucky is our population demographics: a relatively high proportion (10 percent) of our population is aged 70 and above. In most other countries, this is associated with higher death rates.
  • Australia’s testing regime to date has focused on testing those at high risk of COVID-19 infection, rather than testing of the broader population. Globally, this narrower type of regime is associated with higher death rates, so as more testing becomes available, we could expect our case fatality ratio to fall further.
  • Australia’s efforts to successfully “flatten the curve” of positive COVID-19 cases have undoubtedly saved lives, and efforts to keep cases in check relative to our health system capacity is of critical importance to avoid a steep increase in the number of fatalities.
  • While analyses tend to focus on ratios such as deaths to cases, or cases to beds, our result highlights that the absolute size of the problem also matters: countries with relatively large populations, including Australia, are particularly susceptible to high death rates when cases exceed health system capacity.
  • The epidemiology of COVID-19, and global responses to it, are incredibly complex. The analysis presented here considered only broad, country-level factors based on available high-level data. The results should therefore be considered indicative only.




If you have any questions regarding the content of this report and would like speak to someone from our team please contact us.