DOH: Data validation nearly done, problems not unique to PH
MANILA, Philippines — As it winds up its verification of confirmed COVID-19 cases, the Department of Health (DOH) claims it is close to seeing the true scale of the outbreak in the country.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Tuesday that the DOH was close to addressing the backlog in validation as it was just awaiting from four laboratories their complete line list, or the roster of all those who tested positive since they began testing.
The validation will allow the health department to weed out duplicates in the more than 24,000 recorded positive cases, she said.
“Now that we have received most of the complete line lists from our laboratories, we saw that a majority of the recorded cases are duplicates in other laboratories. This means that there a lot of double entries,” Vergeire said.
She said that “after validating and deduplication, we are already close to the official count.’’
As of Tuesday, DOH had recorded 359 new cases, pushing the national tally to 18,997. The death toll climbed to 966, as six patients succumbed to the severe respiratory disease.
Of the new cases, 176 were infections in the last three days, while 183 were from at least four days before.
It was the first time since the outbreak began in March that Metro Manila did not account for the most number of cases, as Central Visayas took the spot with 97 new cases. The metropolis recorded 72 cases.
The total number of recovered patients rose to 4,063, with the recovery of 84 more patients.
Based on DOH data as of June 2, accredited laboratories had already recorded 24,866 positive cases.
Vergeire reiterated that the current total of unique positive cases was not the actual number of confirmed cases because these had yet to be validated by the epidemiology bureau.
A portion of this number may be repeat tests, duplicates or encoding errors.
Once all of the cases have been validated, the daily cases to be reported are all “fresh,” she said.
“[These cases] would serve as our basis to say if the situation in our country is improving,” the health undersecretary added.
After being accused of not being transparent, the DOH said issues related to data reporting were not unique to the Philippines.
In her virtual media briefing, Vergeire said China and Spain, to name a few, had updated their cases after reclassifications were made and as more information on the patients were gathered.
“It’s not only the Philippines which faces problems with its data. What’s important is that we report these cases and more importantly we immediately isolate the patients,” she told reporters.
Since Thursday, the DOH has seen a surge in reported cases after it shifted to the automated COVIDKaya system, which allows it to validate cases faster. With the increase, it reclassified the cases into “fresh” and “late.”
Fresh cases are those patients who tested positive within the last three days, while late cases are those who knew of their results four or more days ago but were not validated immediately.
Vergeire acknowledged though it may only be the Philippines that categorizes COVID-19 cases as fresh and late.
But she noted that this classification was a “temporary measure to avoid confusion” on how the public viewed the new confirmed cases at a time when the DOH was catching up on the validation of previously confirmed cases.
On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon accused the DOH of not being transparent after it decided nearly three months into the outbreak to recategorize cases.
He said “manipulating the data will not bring us anywhere.”
Vergeire argued that the DOH had been transparent “from the very start.” In fact, she said the department had an open system in which “everyone can see our data.”
As for the country’s capacity to test for COVID-19, Vergeire said that while it was true that all of the 49 accredited laboratories were capable of a maximum 32,000 tests daily, these could process only less than 10,000 a day because of various “limiting factors.”
The limiting factors include “erratic” and limited supply and unforeseen events, such as the breakdown of equipment and the need for some laboratory personnel to go on quarantine.
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