DOH: PSA’s 27k COVID death count for 2020 include suspect, probable cases

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 17 2021 02:50 PM | Updated as of Mar 17 2021 03:03 PM

DOH: PSA’s 27k COVID death count for 2020 include suspect, probable cases 1
A sign at the Makati Medical Center says the hospital is already at full capacity for COVID-19 cases, March 15, 2021, as infections surged again to peak levels a year into the pandemic. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Department of Health on Wednesday explained that probable and suspect COVID-19 cases were included in the Philippine Statistics Authority's tally of more than 27,000 coronavirus deaths last year, over twice the department's current count. 

In its latest data released this week, the PSA said that COVID-19 ranks among the leading causes of death in the country. But of the 27,967 listed deaths under COVID-19, 19,758 were under “COVID-19 virus not identified” and 8,209 were under “COVID-19 virus identified.”

Dr. Alethea de Guzman, OIC Director III of the DOH Epidemiology Bureau, told reporters that the DOH only counts confirmed cases, which have complete dates of death and validated causes of death.

“Ang ating PSA kasama nilang inire-report 'yun pong mga death na ang nakalagay kahit suspect COVID lang 'yan or probable COVID lang ang nakasulat sa death certificate, isinasama nila sa counts 'yun na mga COVID-related deaths,” she said.

(Our PSA includes in their reports even the deaths that are suspect COVID or probable COVID based on their death certificate.)

Video courtesy of the Department of Health

Based on DOH data, by the end of 2020, there were more than 9,000 COVID-related deaths. As of March 16, 2021, the total is at 12,848.

De Guzman said when they last consolidated data with the PSA, the number of deaths increased but there are still some that cannot be confirmed due to the delayed reporting of information from local government units.

The health official assured the public that they are also tracking the said deaths but that they are dependent on information shared by local reporting units. 

“At the end of the day, the strategy is the same. You have to consult early. You need to have access to a health care facility,” she advised the public.

De Guzman said they also want to see if the deaths from other diseases also grew in number, partly because of the pandemic. But, she added, it’s hard to analyze it because the data might still be incomplete.

“The number of deaths being reported in PSA it’s less in 2020 than reported in 2019. It’s most likely people are not being able to report,” she said, adding that the reports are very delayed.

Based on latest data, heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the Philippines. The number of suicide cases also significantly increased.

The DOH said it is also tracking the health care utilization rate of hospitals to ensure that those who need the most care can be accommodated.

For the past weeks, the number of new COVID-19 cases has been increasing. De Guzman said the country already reached the same peak level in July last year.