A Tale of Two Regions

Delta in both NSW and Ontario with similar infection rates but very different experiences

Welcome to Plugging the Gap (my email newsletter about Covid-19 and its economics). In case you don’t know me, I’m an economist and professor at the University of Toronto. I have written lots of books including, most recently, on Covid-19. You can follow me on Twitter (@joshgans) or subscribe to this email newsletter here. (I am also part of the CDL Rapid Screening Consortium. The views expressed here are my own and should not be taken as representing organisations I work for.)

For the past year, as an Australian ex-pat now celebrating my 10th year in Canada, it was hard to miss the different worlds that were in both places. My Australian friends and family seemed to frolic in normality while we sat at home under one of the longest lockdowns in any country. But in the last couple of months, it has all shifted. I won’t say that I am frolicking but our restrictions have been broadly lifted and we can do things while in Australia harsh lockdowns are in place. From what I can gather, the Australians are now cooking at home which seems soooo 2020 to me.

Interestingly, the infection data shows a surprising level of comparability. Here it is for Ontario (population 14.5 million) and NSW (population 8 million) over the last month for new daily cases.

They have approximately the same number of Covid-19 cases. However, the per person rate is significantly higher in NSW (6.5 per 100,000) versus Ontario (3.5 per 100,000). In Ontario, there are currently 116 cases in ICUs while in NSW there are 62. NSW has a larger number of non-ICU hospitalisations though: 317 compared with 98.

If you looked at case numbers you would think both are in the same situation. But NSW has been in lockdown since late June while Ontario has been open since that time. One similarity though is that schools are closed in both places by lockdown in NSW and by the annual outbreak of Summer in Ontario.

By the way, the weather is a little different as Australia is in Winter and Canada is in summer. So Toronto’s maximum is 25 degrees while Sydney is more in the 19-degree category. That is pretty much the same in so far as we believe Covid infections are weather-related.

So we, of course, want to look at vaccine rates. In Ontario, 63% are fully vaccinated and another 8% have one dose. In NSW, 25% are fully vaccinated and another 25% have received one dose.

What this tells us is that vaccinations seem to be able to allow for relative openness as a means of controlling Covid. But this is only half of the story. The bigger outstanding issue is where it all ends. In NSW, the hope is that the next month will bring cases down. In Ontario, the forecasts are continual increases.

I place this account here as a marker for our current state of the states. In a month, I’ll revisit it all and see what conclusions we can draw.