‘Anyare?’ How DOH’s failure to report COVID-19 case tally affected Filipinos

July 13, 2020 - 5:52 PM
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Person with mask using smartphone
A woman wearing a protective mask uses a smartphone as she travels on a bus during rush hour, after Indonesia confirmed its first cases of COVID-19, in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 4, 2020. (Reuters/Willy Kurniawan)

For the first time, the Department of Health released the latest case bulletin announcing the figures of the confirmed cases of coronavirus disease a day after it was supposed to be announced to the public.

Filipinos stayed up late on Sunday night waiting for the health agency to publish the daily statistics of people infected by COVID-19 which is usually released around 4 p.m.

Reporters were told that the daily tally would be published by 7:30 p.m. but hours have passed with no update from the DOH.

Minutes before 12 midnight, however, the agency released an advisory saying that it would publish Sunday’s data on Monday morning, at 8:30 a.m.

“Due to the significant volume of data gathered today as part of DOH’s efforts to harmonize data with the cities of NCR (National Capital Region) and the different regions, the DOH Data Team is still currently in the process of validating today’s numbers,” it said last night.

Nevertheless, the agency revealed that Sunday’s tally had increased based on its initial findings.

The DOH added that while it recognizes the importance of giving real-time information, its accuracy had to be considered as well.

By Monday morning, around 30 minutes after the promised time, the DOH released the tally of Sunday’s COVID-19 cases with a new format.

Gone were the categories of “late” and “fresh” cases but these were replaced by a percentage breakdown of the active cases in terms of severity—asymptomatic, mild, severe and critical.

It also included a graph outlining the curve of fatalities as a result of the viral disease.

The full version of the case bulletin likewise included the top provinces with the highest new positives count.

As of July 12, the areas with high COVID-19 cases are the National Capital Region, Cebu, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal Province.

LOOK: DOH COVID-19 CASE BULLETIN #120As of 8AM today, July 13, 2020, the Department of Health reports the total number…

Posted by Department of Health (Philippines) on Sunday, July 12, 2020

 

Sunday’s data saw the highest figures in terms of recoveries and deaths.

It also saw the highest recorded net decline in active cases, according to statistician Peter Julian Cayton who also does epidemiology statistics with UP’s COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team.

Based on the July 12 data, the country logged a total of 56,259 cases in which 38,679 of which are active infections. The death count increased to 1,543 while recoveries climbed to 16,046.

The figures were based on the data submitted by laboratories who process the swab test results, local government units (LGU) across the country and various hospitals. These also undergo validation by the DOH before being included in the national tally.

“The total cases reported may be subject to change as these numbers undergo constant cleaning and validation,” part of DOH’s disclaimer in its daily case bulletins said.

The number of positive cases is reportedly sourced from laboratories while the number of deaths and recoveries are sourced from LGUs and hospitals.

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that their July 12 tally was based on 82% submission from laboratories and data reconciliation from regional offices.

“Pero simple lang, kung walang submission or update, wala din po kaming i-re-report,” she said in a press briefing on Monday morning.

As of July 13, the country has 57,006 cases of COVID-19 infections, where 35,036 of which are active. The death toll reached 1,599 while recoveries are at 20,371.

However, the list of top provinces with the most count of newly-reported cases was not included in the full case bulletin uploaded on Facebook on Monday afternoon.

Concerns on case tally report delay

Meanwhile, the DOH’s hours-long delay in releasing Sunday’s tally left many Filipinos losing sufficient sleep as they share their anxieties on social media.

A Twitter user questioned whether the agency has a “cut-off” time in terms of receiving data which the user claimed could expedite the process of releasing a case bulletin.

“Wala po bang cut-off sa data? For example as of 4pm today eto lang yung na-validate.. release data! ANYARE???” the online user wrote.

Another Twitter user recalled the instances in which DOH would release data in a later time that has become associated with record-high numbers.

“Natatagalan na naman maglabas ng data for today ang DOH. Usually malaki yung numbers pag late e. Wag naman sana,” the online user said.

Another Filipino took note of how people supposedly mocked the agency’s advisory but added that the extreme delay was “not a good sign.”

“The last time there was a significant delay in the reporting of COVID-19 cases, the DOH ended reporting the highest number of cases in a day. So while people seem to be mocking this, it’s not actually a good sign,” the online user said in response to the agency’s advisory.

A human rights advocate similarly questioned Sunday’s extreme delay.

“Buong araw, wala kayong navalidate ni isang case?” Bryan Gonzales asked.

Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima called on the Senate to investigate the DOH’s COVID-19 reporting which she called “faulty.”

The chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development said that the agency must give “accurate and up-to-date data” as the government’s management and response efforts are reliant on it.

“Accurate and up-to date data about COVID-19 and the resources the country has in the fight to survive the global pandemic is vital not only in policy-making, but as well as in upholding the right of the people to information on matters of public concern,” De Lima said on June 13.