DOH removes over 4,000 ‘duplicate cases’ from COVID-19 tally; 309 ‘recoveries’ turned out to be deaths

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 23 2020 01:37 PM | Updated as of Aug 23 2020 02:30 PM

Navotas City residents undergo swab testing at a gymnasium behind the city hall on August 20, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) has removed 4,396 cases from its official COVID-19 tally in a span of more than two months, according to DOH data analyzed by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group (IRG).

There were also corrections on the tagging of recoveries and fatalities, with 309 patients previously announced as recovered turning out to have actually succumbed to the disease.

DUPLICATES

The total of 4,377 duplicate cases removed from June 12 to Aug. 21 represent 2% of the 182,365 confirmed cases as of Aug. 21.

There were also 19 other cases taken off because they were later found to be negative of COVID-19.

Back in June, the removal of duplicate cases and those later found to be negative of COVID-19 averaged 3 cases per day for the 15 days that there were such announcements, the ABS-CBN IRG said. That month, total COVID-19 cases were still below 40,000.

However, by July, it averaged 67 per day for the 26 days that there were such announcements. By the end of July, confirmed COVID-19 cases already reached more than 90,000.

The number increased further in August, with removals ranging from 75 a day to as high as 443. From Aug. 1 to Aug. 21, the number of cases removed averaged 124 per day.

FROM RECOVERED TO DEAD

Meanwhile, the ABS-CBN IRG monitored a total of 1,332 recoveries removed from the DOH tally. Two ended up being negative of the new coronavirus, 51 were found to be still infected, and 309 were found to be already dead. The remaining 970 were among the duplicate cases removed from the total.

There were also a total of 46 deaths removed from the DOH’s official tally, of which, 17 were found to be still alive (14 recovered and 3 still infected with COVID-19). The remaining 29 were among the removed duplicate cases.

CONTINUED VALIDATION

In a written response on Friday, the DOH explained to ABS-CBN News that there are “very few” times when laboratories would find encoding errors, and this includes those previously reported positive but are actually negative of COVID-19.

“Duplicate cases are only removed after validation with the RESU or LGU,” the DOH said.

“If a case has a similar sounding name or exactly the same name but other data such as age, sex, or address are different, we report them first and then remove them when the LGU or RESU has provided us the information that these are duplicates,” the DOH said.

MASS RECOVERY ADJUSTMENT

The DOH also explained that it has been using “time-based tagging” for recoveries, which means mild and asymptomatic cases are considered recovered after 14 days.

“We are continuously enhancing our processes of tagging recoveries and deaths and we have strongly reminded our LGUs of the need to immediately report deaths and ensure that details of deaths are complete as well as update cases who have already recovered so that we can improve our reporting of recoveries and deaths,” the agency said.

However, it did not explain how it ended up announcing as recovered those who already died when it earlier assured that there are safeguards in place to check the status of COVID-19 patients.

The DOH said that it will be publishing the list of non-compliant facilities and local government units and “enforce necessary sanctions” if they are unable to report cases in their area.

This is in accordance with the Republic Act 11332 or the "Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases Act," RA 4266 or the "Hospital Licensure Act," and RA 4688 or the "Clinical Laboratory Law.”

The Philippines has logged 187,249 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 2,966 deaths and 114,921 recoveries, as of Saturday, Aug. 22.

The country's first case was confirmed on Jan. 30 in a Chinese woman who arrived from Wuhan City, China where the disease is believed to have first emerged.