The first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Wuhan, China, in late 2019 (Huang et al., 2020[1]; Roberts, Rossman and Jarić, 2021[2]). Since then the virus has spread around the world and developed into a pandemic because of its contagious characteristics and the associated illnesses, which resulted in the death of many people. The pandemic may have started in China, but, national authorities in China reported that the number of cumulative deaths attributed to COVID-19 was just over three persons per 1 million people by early April 2022. At the same time, the number of cumulative deaths per million people across the OECD on average and the United States were much higher at almost 2000 and 3 000 deaths per million people, respectively. See OECD (2022[3]) for an overview of OECD analysis on the impact of COVID-19 on health and health systems.

The number of new COVID-19 cases remained relatively low in 2020 in Asia and the Pacific (OECD/WHO, 2020[4]). By the end of 2020, the number of cumulative deaths from COVID-19 per 1 million persons was relatively low in China (3), Indonesia (81) and India (107) compared to the OECD average (620) while in the United States already over 1 000 persons per 1 million people had died from COVID-19 (Ritchie et al., 2022[5]). However, in mid-2021 the number of new cases spiked in India, Indonesia and Japan (Figure 5.16), contributing to a significant increase in the number of cumulative deaths in these countries in 2021(Figure 5.18).

The emergence of the “Omicron variant” – highly contagious (the scales of the number of cases as reported in Figure 5.16 and Figure 5.17 are very different), contributed to the rapid increase in the number of cases in Australia around Christmas 2021 peaking in January 2022. “Omicron” also contributed to the case numbers reaching new heights in New Zealand and Korea in early and late March 2022, respectively (Figure 5.17). By comparison, the increase in case numbers in India, Indonesia in the first quarter of 2022 was limited. Indeed, the number of cumulative deaths in India and Indonesia changed little in the first quarter of 2022, in contrast to the four OECD countries in the region. Compared to the number of cumulative deaths from COVID-19 at the beginning of 2022 the trend increase was particularly pronounced in Australia and Korea (Figure 5.18).


[1] Huang, C. et al. (2020), “Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China”, The Lancet, Vol. 395/10223, pp. 497-506,

[3] OECD (2022), The impact of COVID-19 on health and health systems,

[4] OECD/WHO (2020), Health at a Glance: Asia/Pacific 2020: Measuring Progress Towards Universal Health Coverage, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[5] Ritchie, H. et al. (2022), Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19),

[2] Roberts, D., J. Rossman and I. Jarić (2021), “Dating first cases of COVID-19”, PLOS Pathogens, Vol. 17/6, p. e1009620,

[7] WHO (2022), International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision - ICD-11,

[6] WHO (2020), Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Situation report 50,

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