MANILA — In yet another correction, the Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) on Monday said 297 COVID-19 cases that it previously reported as recoveries are actually deaths and active infections.
In an advisory, the DOH said 253 of those cases were deaths, while the remaining 44 are still active infections after validations were made.
The clarification was made as the agency reported on Monday a record-high of 259 new coronavirus-related fatalities as the country's caseload of the disease swelled to 265,888.
According to the latest DOH bulletin, 110 of the 259 additional deaths were from August, while 97 were from July. Twenty-two deaths were from June, and 1 each were from May and April. Only 28 occurred in the month of September.
The country's COVID death toll stood at 4,630, while the total recoveries are 207,504, as of Monday.
The DOH also said that it removed 27 duplicate cases from its previous count, including 16 that were tagged as recovered.
Mistagging of cases has been admitted in the past by the DOH.
Three weeks ago, ABS-CBN News reported that the agency had to remove over 4,000 duplicate cases from its official COVID-19 tally from June to August 21.
More than 300 recoveries were also mistagged as they turned out actually to be fatalities.
On Monday morning, before the single day record-high deaths were reported, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire explained their time-based tagging protocol where mild and asymptomatic cases are labeled as recoveries after 14 days.
Vergeire said that after noting which patients are due to be tagged as recoveries, they send the names to regional epidemiological surveillance units (RESUs) and local government units for verification.
“RESUs and local governments check the patient list against their own records and cross out those who have either died or became critical. After this, they send this updated list back to us so we can record it in the national tally,” Vergeire said.
She said Mondays to Fridays are allotted for the checking, while tallying is done on Saturdays, before announcement is made on Sundays.
“Hence, the jump in the recovery data or what have been referred to as ‘mass recoveries,’” she said of the weekly spike in recovered cases.
“There are instances when our regional units and our local governments and our health facilities, upon further validation, correct their own reported recoveries and tag them as deaths,” she said. “This happens when deaths are not immediately recorded or encoded.”
Vergeire also explained that a COVID-related death can only be tagged as such if they have the official cause of death and the date of the patient's demise.
She said such pieces of information are sometimes relayed belatedly.
“Rest assured, we are working with our partners, regional offices and local government to ensure that we provide accurate and complete national tally,” Vergeire said.