Experts see 'alarming errors' in DOH's coronavirus data

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 12) — A team of experts from the University of the Philippines is seeking better reporting of the government's COVID-19 data.

The UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team in a Facebook post on Tuesday pointed out "alarming errors" and "inconsistencies" in the data provided by the Department of Health.

The group, composed of around 200 professors, researchers, alumni and students from various fields such as epidemiology, emergency medicine, public health, and computer science, said that while the DOH has been open to feedback, and had already improved its reporting, certain issues remain unresolved.

For instance, a patient reported by the DOH as dead on April 24 was no longer among the fatalities listed the next day.

Comparing data releases from these two days alone, the UP experts said at least 45 of the coronavirus cases went from male to female or vice versa, 75 patients became younger or older overnight, while 516 cases were reclassified "either to another city or a completely imaginary city."

The team added that there continues to be a mismatch between the numbers disclosed by the DOH and that of local government units. It cited as an example that on May 3, the DOH reported seven deaths and 28 recoveries in Laguna -- short by 22 deaths and 65 recoveries from what was recorded by the provincial government.

The DOH earlier address a similar issue when the Cebu City Jail first reported infections among inmates, something that was not reflected on case bulletins released by the agency daily every 4 p.m. The DOH explained that its daily reports, including the number of new cases, are not the real-time data since all information has to be validated before reporting.

There are also inconsistencies in the use of Philippine Standard Geographic Code, and in the use of date formats, making it difficult to extract information from the data drops, the UP researchers said.

They are now calling on the government to make the data accessible to all relevant stakeholders so cross-validation could be done.

"The availability of accurate, relevant, and timely data is a basic requirement in managing a pandemic," the team said, noting that no less than President Rodrigo Duterte stressed that government decisions on managing the crisis would all be based on science.

"Data issues must be resolved as soon as possible to secure public trust in the plans, decisions, and pronouncements of the government and its private partners," the team added.

Much of the Philippines is under general community quarantine until May 15 to prevent further spread of COVID-19, which so far has infected 11,350 people and killed 751. Metro Manila and several provinces are under stricter quarantine measures, which could be eased next week depending on the number of infections in an area.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the transition was based on the improvement in the country's case doubling time, as health officials found that it now takes seven to 30 days before the number of infections double.