A team of experts from the University of the Philippines recently published their observations on the Department of Health’s COVID-19 data collection and transparency.
The team consisting of around 200 professors, researchers, alumni, and students from various fields such as epidemiology, emergency medicine, public health, and computer science pointed out the “alarming errors” and “inconsistencies” they have found in the DOH’s data.
The UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team believes that the availability of accurate, relevant, and timely data is a basic…
They list out the continuing mismatch between DOH and local government unit (LGU) numbers, showing the differences in reports from the different government agencies.
An example they give is the disparity between Laguna’s report last May 3 and that of the DOH. The DOH reported 7 deaths and 28 recoveries in Laguna, which was 22 deaths and 65 recoveries lesser than the LGU’s official count.
The team also compared a DOH report from April 24 and 25, showing the inconsistencies between the data releases from just 2 days.
They noted 45 cases that changed sexes from male to female or vice-versa, 75 patients who became either older or younger overnight, and 516 cases that were classified to either another city or a completely imaginary city. There was also 1 patient recorded as dead on April 24 but was no longer dead the following day.
There are also inconsistencies in the use of the Philippine Standard Geographic Code (PSGC) for cases within regions. Based on the PSGC, each region should have a unique code but DOH data shows ‘blank’ entries or entries with missing codes.
The data drop was also criticized for its inconsistent use of data formats that switch from MM-DD-YYYY to DD-MMM-YYYY and finally to YYYY-MM-DD.
These inconsistencies are significant as they make it difficult for automated systems to extract and update data from case information.
In light of this, the UP team issues a call for transparency and accountability.
“The COVID-19 pandemic requires a science-based approach and science cannot exist in a vacuum,” they write. “Any scientific output benefits from cross-validation from peers which can only happen in an environment where government data is made available to all relevant stakeholders.”
“Entrusting government data to select private entities only is inimical to [the] public interest.”
They ask for the government to make the data accessible to all relevant stakeholders in order to conduct cross-validation of it.
“Making all data sources open, while also being mindful of the same data privacy protocols that DOH is following, can further empower stakeholders in our collective fight against COVID-19,” they justify.
” Data must be used to generate knowledge,” they continue. “Keeping information in silos limits our understanding of the problem, thus limiting our chances to maintain and preserve public health and security.”
To conclude they say: “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.”
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