PSA: COVID-19 seventh leading cause of death in PH in 2020
COVID-19 was the seventh leading cause of death in the Philippines in 2020, with 27,967 deaths attributed to the disease though 70 percent of these have not been confirmed by the Department of Health (DOH).
Data on deaths collected as of last Feb. 26 by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) from city and municipal registrars nationwide from January to December 2020 showed 19,758 deaths had been reported as COVID-19 related but “virus not identified.”
National Statistician Dennis Mapa explained to the Inquirer that these unidentified COVID-19 deaths had not been reported by the DOH as those were likely patients who had not been tested for SARS Cov2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Deaths reported due to COVID-19 and with the virus identified by the DOH, meanwhile, was listed at a lower 8,209.
Mapa said the PSA used World Health Organization (WHO) classifications for deaths attributed to COVID-19.
“In response to the emergence of COVID-19, the WHO issued two new emergency codes to be used when coding causes of death for statistical purposes,” the PSA said in a report on Tuesday (March 16).
These codes are U07.1 which means COVID-19 was clearly identified as cause of death and infection had been confirmed by lab tests. Code U07.2 means the cause of death is highly suspected to be COVID-19 but testing had not been completed or was inconclusive.
The PSA sought to clarify that its COVID-19 deaths data “may differ” from the DOH’s because the PSA’s figures were “based on the descriptions written on the medical certificate portion of all death certificates received which were certified by the local health officers, while data from the DOH were collected through a surveillance system.”
When ranked separately, unidentified COVID-19 deaths were already the seventh biggest cause of deaths in the country in 2020, while the identified cases were in 16th place.
Combining confirmed and probable deaths, COVID-19 was still the seventh leading cause of death, accounting for 4.9 percent of the total registered in 2020, behind heart diseases, neoplasms or commonly known as cancer, cerebrovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, pneumonia and hypertension.
On a per region basis, the most COVID-19 deaths were in Metro Manila (12,582), Calabarzon (6,914), and Central Luzon (2,576). The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) had the lowest reported COVID-19 deaths, with just 37.
In Metro Manila, Quezon City led the number of COVID-19 deaths (2,566), followed by Manila (1,810), Pasig (1,447), Makati (970), and Caloocan (906).
Data on deaths caused by other diseases showed that fatal heart ailments in 2020 rose to 99,680 from an average 82,547 from 2015 to 2019.
Deaths caused by diabetes, digestive system disorder and other endocrine, nutritional and metabolic illnesses also rose in 2020 compared to their 2015-2019 average.
Most other diseases caused fewer deaths in 2020 compared to their previous five-year average. Those that caused fewer deaths by the thousands included cancer, pneumonia, chronic lower respiratory infections, other heart diseases, respiratory tuberculosis, and certain conditions originating in the perinatal period.
Deaths due to transport accidents and assault also fell by 37.4 percent and 32 percent in 2020 compared to 2019 numbers.
However, deaths caused by self-harm climbed by 25.7 percent to 3,529 in 2020 from 2019’s 2,808.
Overall, the PSA earlier reported the total number of deaths in the country declined by 3 percent to 601,811 in 2020 from 620,414 in 2019.
Washington-based think tank Center for Global Development (CGD) had warned of the “hidden” health cost that the pandemic is exacting on Filipinos as total claims from the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) for 12 diseases, which account for half of the Philippines’ sickness burden, dropped significantly as the public and private health sectors focused on fighting COVID-19.
Acting Socioeconomic Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua had noted that there were fewer accidents, drowning, injuries, and communicable diseases which caused deaths in 2020.
On the flip side, noncommunicable diseases caused more deaths, according to Chua, who chairs the PSA board as head of the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).
“It’s sad that we have far more deaths also from other factors that need our care,” Chua said.
Chua had been urging a safe reopening of the economy with minimum health standards to prevent COVID-19 surge. He said the pandemic has led to rising hunger, unemployment and even neglect of other diseases in areas which are on strict quarantine.
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