The New South Wales Department of Health has now released a breakdown of COVID-19 data by suburb. The website – and much of the media reporting of this data – displays this in the form of colour-coded maps, highlighting the hotspots. But the data is also available in more detail as part of the government’s open data initiative. This provides the opportunity to explore the data in different ways.

As an example, the chart below shows the evolution of confirmed COVID-19 cases over time for all postcodes with more than 20 total cases. This shows clearly the impact of the social distancing measures from early April. Many areas have seen no new cases since mid April. The large spot that pushed Caddens near the top of the list is result of the cases in the Anglicare Newmarch aged care nursing home.

Note that most of the postcodes in New South Wales include multiple suburbs. Here I have picked a single representative suburb to label the chart.


Reportedly, Sweden has not gone into a COVID-19 lockdown, unlike its neighbours. While I am sure this is a deliberate policy choice, it will also serve as an interesting epidemiological experiment to test the effectiveness of different social response measures.

It is still early in the course of this international experiment, but a look at the growth in cases intially suggests that Sweden’s strategy is not leading to a significantly higher infection rate.

COVID-19 cases

However, confirmed cases are difficult to compare across countries as they can be heavily influenced by the testing regimes each country implements How many tests are performed? Do they target particular groups (international travellers, those in contact with confirmed cases or are they driven by symptoms? It is very hard to account for these factors. Instead it is easier to compare the number of deaths. While there can still be differences (Under what circumstances are post-mortem deaths tested for COVID-19? How are co-morbidities accounted for? Are there more older citizens?), I think it is reasonable to expect less significant variation across neighbouring countries.

Looking at deaths, Sweden looks far worse than its neighbours. Sweden has approximately the same number of confirmed cases as Norway, but more than five times the number of deaths.

COVID-19 deaths

Interestingly, Sweden’s case count is very close to Australia’s, but Australia has to date seen 23 deaths, compared to 239 in Sweden – almost 10 times as many.

This suggests either that Sweden’s confirmed case count is significantly understated – it would be understated everywhere but likely more so in Sweden than elsewhere – or Sweden is suffering a far higher mortality rate.

The experiment is not yet over, but so far Sweden’s no lockdown strategy does not seem to be working.


COVID-19 data

21 March 2020

There is no shortage of commentary on COVID-19 online and off. There is also an abundance of data available, which is as good a reason as any for the first Mule post of 2020. One of the best data resources online is the Johns Hopkins dashboard created by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering […]

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Alive and kicking

19 May 2019

It has been almost two years since there has been a new post here at the Mule, so you would be forgiven for thinking that the blog was defunct. But, I have now been prodded into action by the need to change my hosting provider. For over 10 years a friend has very generously hosted […]

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Keep the date, and Vote

24 August 2017

James Glover is back with another guest post, this time digging into some poll figures ahead of the postal plebiscite on same sex marriage. Hey, there is a survey/plebiscite/referendum on, in case you haven’t heard. It’s on same sex marriage or marriage equality. Leaving aside the fact that this is a survey and not at […]

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May day was in June

15 June 2017

The father of the Mule is currently in  the UK and penned the following piece as he reflected on the outcome of the election. With the speed of the election cycle, the election results may already seem a distant memory, but any tardiness in publishing this post is entirely due to a slow editor (me) […]

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More on Brexit

19 July 2016

After observing the Brexit poll at close quarters, guest Mule contributor John Carmody travelled on to Europe and continued to reflect on the significance of the vote. In this follow-up post he reflects on the historical journey of the European Union and his reasons for thinking that the Leave vote was a terrible mistake on […]

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25 June 2016

Sometime Stubborn Mule contributor, John Carmody, finds himself in the UK at the time of the Brexit vote and has filed the following report. Meanwhile, back here in Australia, the Mule is watching anxiously for signs that we are on the verge of the end of Western civilisation “in it’s entirety”. On the night before the “Brexit” […]

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Sic Gloria in Transit on Monday

8 May 2016

Has it really been so long since there was a post here on the Mule? It would appear so and my only excuse is that I have been busy (isn’t everyone?). Even now, I have not pulled together a post myself but am once again leaning on the contributions of regular author, James Glover. From […]

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Direct Action

27 September 2015

It has been a very long time since there has been a post here on the Stubborn Mule. Even now, I have not started writing again myself but have the benefit of a return of regular guest poster, James Glover. This is a post to explain the Australian Government’s policy called “Direct Action”. I will […]

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