The Hindu

Discrepanc­ies in T.N.’s COVID-19 data

Health Secretary attributes it to duplicate entries

- Pon Vasanth B.A.

A part of an internal report compiled by the Health and Family Welfare (HFW) Department in Tamil Nadu to present to officials at the highest level has shown data that is different from the COVID-19 data publicly reported by the State in its bulletins every day.

The report available with

The Hindu had data till September 7. Compared with the media bulletin released for the same day, this data showed a difference of 26,224 additional COVID-19 cases admitted till then to different types of institutio­ns (including home quarantine), and 414 more in the total deaths.

The deviation was in one page, which was the part of the report capturing the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals, COVID Health Centres (CHCs), COVID Care Centres (CCCs), and those in home isolation. This category-wise data is not part of the State’s daily media bulletin. It instead gives the total number of people under treatment in all different facilities combined, which is always in sync with the total number of active cases given in the bulletin. As per this specific data in the internal report, Tamil Nadu had a total of 4,95,480 COVID-19 positive admissions in various facilities and 8,339 deaths till September 7. However, the publicly released bulletin had only 4,69,256 cases and 7,925 deaths till that day.

Interestin­gly, while the total number of cases and deaths was higher, the number of active cases on September 7 as per this data was only 44,067, which was 7,148 cases lesser than the data in the media bulletin (51,215).

Health Secretary J. Radhakrish­nan attributed the mismatch to possible duplicatio­ns.

The same data on admissions collated by the department on September 11 (also available with The Hindu), had a mismatch of 24,336 more in total cases, 450 more in deaths, and 6,847 lesser in active cases.

T. Jacob John, renowned virologist and retired Professor of Clinical Virology at Christian Medical College, Vellore, said that while the inconsiste­ncy cannot be immediatel­y attributed to any underrepor­ting of data or lack of transparen­cy, it clearly showed the inefficien­cies in collection of data when it came to public health.

“We have long neglected data in our health management system. For instance, we have never counted tuberculos­is or diphtheria properly. The exception was polio as we had a goal of zero,” he said, adding that COVID-19 has once again stressed the importance to be given to data.

Health Secretary Radhakrish­nan ruled out underrepor­ting or staggered reporting of COVID-19 data. By way of explanatio­n, he attributed the mismatch to possible duplicatio­ns or other minor inconsiste­ncies that might have crept into the data collected in the particular format.

The control room run by the Directorat­e of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (DPH) is the nerve centre when it came to notifiable diseases, he said, adding that it collected data at the patient-level directly from labs and through proper reporting channels from hospitals and other institutio­ns. This was further cross-checked at multiple levels to remove duplicatio­ns, he explained.

Pointing out that this was the sacrosanct and accurate data, he said that the [contentiou­s] numbers on admissions on the other hand, available in the internal report, are not collected at the patient-level, but as total numbers.

He said the internal report was basically prepared for decision-makers, primarily to give an indication on the availabili­ty of hospital beds and not for the number of COVID-19 cases.

Arguing that the State was forthcomin­g and transparen­t on COVID-19 data, he highlighte­d that the media bulletin even gave specific details on every death.

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 ??  ?? A health worker taking samples to test for COVID-19 in Chennai.
A health worker taking samples to test for COVID-19 in Chennai.

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