Duterte urged: Appoint COVID-19 data czar after scores of ‘recoveries’ turn out to be deaths

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 14 2020 11:30 AM

Two men visit their late relatives and apply a new coat of paint to their graves at the San Juan City Cemetery on Sept. 10, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte should consider appointing a data analyst czar, his pandemic task force’s former adviser said Monday, after scores of coronavirus recoveries that the health department reported later turned out to be deaths. 

Errors in data reporting will “further erode the credibility of the Department of Health in terms of reporting, considering the other agencies have caught up trying to implement their work,” said Dr. Tony Leachon. 

“We cannot decide on certain implementation based on old data, particularly this one, recoveries to deaths. We have no tolerance for errors and we cannot function in an epidemic by tolerating mediocrity,” he told ANC. 

“Perhaps we need to assign a data analytics czar or a data czar because this is the heart and soul of the efforts of the government. Garbage in, garbage out… We need to step up,” he added. 

Watch more in iWantTFC

From June 12 to Aug. 21, the health department removed more than 4,000 cases from the COVID-19 tally after they turned out to be duplicates and encoding errors.

On Saturday, the agency said 126 cases previously reported as recoveries turned out to be deaths after final validation. The DOH also reclassified 2 recoveries as active cases, which meant the patients remained infected with coronavirus.

Cases are classified under recoveries if patients remain asymptomatic or their mild symptoms do not worsen 14 days after they test positive, said the DOH. 

The list of potential recoveries are sent to the local governments and the regional epidemiological surveillance units (RESUs), which “check it against their own records and cross out patients who have either died, or became critical.” They then send the update list back to the DOH, it said. 

This is done weekly, with the crosschecking scheduled from Monday to Friday, the tallying on Saturday, and the reporting of cases and “mass recoveries” on Sunday, said the agency. 

“While we would like to report data that is as accurate and complete as possible, we are reliant on what is being submitted to us and there will sometimes be instances wherein our RESUs, LGUs and health facilities, upon further validation, correct their own initially-reported recoveries and re-tag them as deaths,” the health department said. 

The Philippines has the highest number of total cases in Southeast Asia despite implementing the longest and strictest lockdown in the region. 

The health department on Sunday confirmed 3,372 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday bringing the country’s total to 261,216.