DOH panel member says OCTA data 'problematic'; likens one prediction to fortune-telling


Posted at Aug 02 2021 11:49 AM

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MANILA - A member of the Department of Health's expert panel group on Monday criticized independent research group OCTA for releasing "problematic" data on the country's COVID-19 situation.

"Their model, unfortunately, is problematic because they are using data that is incomplete and inconsistent. There are other things you have to look at," Dr. Edsel Salvaña, a member of the DOH Technical Advisory Group, told ANC's "Rundown".

"I have no personal quarrel with them. In fact, some of the OCTA people are my good friends but in terms of if they're going to make projections, I wish that they would be more circumspect," he added.

OCTA is a group of doctors, researchers and professors from different universities, which has been releasing its own daily bulletins.

This comes after OCTA said there may already be community transmission of the COVID-19 Delta variant in Metro Manila. This is based on the increasing percentage of COVID-19 cases detected in the country through genome sequencing.

The DOH earlier said there was no community transmission of the virulent coronavirus variant despite increasing COVID-19 infections.

Salvaña also slammed one of OCTA's predictions as "fortune-telling". He referred to an incident on July 22 when OCTA said the number of COVID-19 cases in the country may increase to 8,000. The daily coronavirus infections recorded on that same day was over 5,800.

"Sabi ko, alam mo (I said, you know what, that's) fortune- telling yan eh because in the first place, you can't exactly calculate how many cases would come out in one day," he said.

"In the first place, there's backlogs, there's all these things. We don't do that in science. Hindi kami manghuhula (we are not fortune-tellers.). The important thing is you look at trends and you analyzed the data properly," he added.

Salvaña also called on OCTA to refrain from declaring things related to COVID-19 as "official".

"Please do help. Go ahead and do your analysis. But please make sure that you're doing the correct analysis because if you don't, then you would just confuse these people and the government will make the wrong decision because nag-panic na 'yung ibang tao (some people have panicked)," he said.

He noted they invited OCTA to join the DOH's data analytics team but the group declined.

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In response to Salvaña's criticisms, Dr. Nicanor Austriaco of OCTA Research maintained their data were consistent with trends of the pandemic.

"The data that we are producing have been consistent with the trends and the dynamic of the pandemic for the past 15 [or] 16 months," he also told Rundown.

Austriaco also said their predictions were subject to peer review.

"What's really striking is unlike many other government agencies around the world, we have no sense of the prediction and the forecast from the DOH," he said. "I've never seen them published and so it's interesting the criticism is we're not accountable. Our data is very transparent."

For Austriaco, they should not be "quibbling" over whether or not there is local transmission or community transmission of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

"We should not be quibbling over words. We should be quibbling over what we should do in light of the data and the variants that are approaching," he said.