40% of COVID-19 deaths in past week were late reports from July, August — DOH data

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 28 2021 09:59 PM

40% of COVID-19 deaths in past week were late reports from July, August — DOH data 1
Mortuary workers arrive on Tuesday, a day after a man’s death was reported, to retrieve the body in a slum community in Caloocan City. Vincent Go, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Almost 40% of the additional COVID-related deaths recorded in the past week were late reports from July and August, according to Department of Health data analyzed by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group (IRG).

For the past couple of days, the daily tally of COVID-19 deaths has been larger than usual — at least 50 in the past 6 days by Thursday.

It started on January 23, Saturday with 54 fatalities, Sunday with 53, Monday with 50, Tuesday with 94, Wednesday with 95, and Thursday with 71.

The daily deaths even exceeded the tally of newly recovered patients on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire on Wednesday said it was actually because they “harmonized data” with the Philippine Statistics Authority.

“Because ang Philippine Statistics Authority ay nakapagbigay na sa atin noong numbers ng verified deaths with their names kaya naipasok na po natin sa ating talaan,” she said. “This is because of the influx ‘no or iyong pagpasok noong mga reports sa atin kaya po ganito ang itsura ngayon.”

(The Philippine Statistics Authority was able to give numbers of verified deaths with their names so we were able to include them in our record…The recent numbers are because of the influx of reports.)

She said that the numbers should stabilize soon and reflect the actual number of deaths.

Breaking down the date of deaths of the newly reported fatalities, the ABS-CBN IRG found out that almost 30% of the 439 fatalities recorded from January 20 to 27, 2021 were recent or from January. 

However, it also showed significant numbers of late reports for some months. Added to the month of July were 83 deaths and to August 91 deaths. This is 39.6% of the fatalities reported in the past 7 days.

There were even a few late reports from March to May, 15 in June and more than 20 fatalities each from September to December. 

40% of COVID-19 deaths in past week were late reports from July, August — DOH data 2
Source: ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group

It is unclear if these deaths were previously tagged as recovered or were recorded as COVID-19 cases at all, but the DOH regularly reports a few recoveries a day “reclassified” as fatalities after final validation. There were 56 cases like these on January 19, 15 on January 21, 15 on January 26, and 19 on January 27.

DOH data has long been reflecting late reports. In October, ABS-CBN News reported on how 15,600 COVID-19 cases were recorded months late.

It also had to resort to a mass recovery program to regularly update its number of recoveries, resulting in a spike in recovered patients every Sunday starting July.

The DOH often attributed late reports to delays by its disease reporting units, such as hospitals and local government units.