Reports on fresh, late COVID-19 cases to stay for now as PH clears backlogs — DOH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 18)— The Department of Health will clear backlogs on COVID-19 testing and data transmission before reverting back to its old system of reporting cases, its spokesperson said Thursday.

“In the next few weeks, if we will see that the late cases already we were able to exhaust at fresh cases na lang, babalik na tayo sa dati nating pagre-report ng data (we will go back to our old way of reporting data),” Health Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire told CNN Philippines’ The Source, stressing that the COVID-19 situation in the country is “evolving.”

The Health Department in late May changed its way of presenting daily coronavirus data by separating "fresh” cases, or those whose test results were released within the last three days, from "late" cases, or those whose results were released after more than four days. DOH said this was to provide transparency in the timelines of data gathered.

The move, however, drew mixed reactions from netizens and lawmakers alike, with some questioning the validity and accuracy of previous nationwide bulletins.

Dr. Tony Leachon, who earlier resigned from his post as a special adviser to the COVID-19 National Task Force, was among those who voiced out concerns on the DOH’s new system of reporting, calling officials’ move a “mediocre” performance.

He urged Filipinos not to tolerate the present response measures, noting how citizens should “demand for accountability” amid the global health crisis.

“We’re still struggling with the data. We’re the only country in the world reporting fresh and late… In crisis, sometimes, we should not tolerate mediocrity,” Leachon said in a separate interview with CNN Philippines.

Vergeire said the DOH is constantly trying to improve the system and clean the data, with the help of both the public and private sectors.

Delayed data?

The Health official also addressed claims of “delayed” data, pointing out that the collection and validation process starts from the local levels in government.

“People have to understand that the data we get, it’s not just national government… Ang daming actors na pinagdadaanan netong reports na ito (there are may actors who first tackle these reports),” Vergeire said.

Over the weekend, Leachon, through social media, lamented how the agency has been running amiss in terms of risk communication, data management, and execution of all plans in battling the local coronavirus outbreak.

He likewise called on authorities to release real-time, granular or highly detailed data on infections, which he said will allow officials to make sound decisions in the pandemic fight.

The Health Department has meanwhile been subjected to a probe by the Office of the Ombudsman, which wanted to look into the alleged "irregularities and anomalies" in its COVID-19 response measures.

DOH had said it will cooperate with all directives concerning the investigation.

To date, COVID-19 cases in the Philippines have surpassed 27,000.