DOH, partner analysts defend virus data
The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday reiterated that its data on the new coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines was accurate.
“We will not allow that our data is not accurate and validated. We will ensure that all our data is correct,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said at an online press briefing.
Vergeire stressed that the DOH would not base its decisions and actions on false data.
On Tuesday, a team of researchers from the University of the Philippines’ Resilience Institute claimed “alarming errors” in the DOH’s coronavirus patient data. The errors, they said, included 45 cases whose gender was changed, 75 patients whose age changed overnight, 516 cases who were reassigned to a different residence, and a patient who was reported to have died but was actually alive.
The researchers said they found the errors in the DOH’s data drops for April 24 and April 25. The department assured the public that the errors pointed out by the UP researchers were “a nominal percentage of the whole data set” and “[did] not prejudice the overall interpretation of data and decision-making.”
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the errors accounted for less than 1 percent of the overall data and that these were corrected in the DOH report for April 26.
In a statement, the DOH said the errors, as well as other inconsistencies raised by private citizens, were resolved immediately.
“Data is continuously rectified the moment we identify any issue,” it said, stressing that it remained committed to transparency and that it welcomed feedback from the expert community.
“We acknowledge that the system is not perfect but we continue to improve our data collection and reporting system,” it said.
‘Not always 100% accurate’
According to data analysts Reena Estuar of Ateneo de Manila University and Maya Herrera of Asian Institute of Management (AIM), data is not always 100-percent accurate.
Estuar and Herrera are part of the subtechnical working group on data analytics of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, the temporary government body overseeing the Duterte administration’s response to the new coronavirus pandemic.
Herrera said it would be wrong to say that the DOH data was incorrect even with the 1 percent error.
“When you say incorrect, do you mean all incorrect? When you validate one portion and it is accurate but another is problematic, this is not incorrect. Something is just missing,” she said.
Estuar said strict measures were taken to ensure the integrity of data.
“We make sure we show the accuracy of numbers every day,” she said. “A validity and reliability scoring process is done to increase confidence in data that will be used for decision-making.”
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