'More accurate' COVID-19 data soon as DOH aims to clear backlog

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 8) — The Department of Health on Wednesday admitted a huge backlog in the encoding of data on coronavirus cases, as it committed to present next week "a more accurate picture" of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

In an online press briefing, Special Assistant to the Health Secretary Beverly Ho explained that the DOH has two main sources of data on COVID-19 cases: the laboratory information system, which includes data on the people tested for coronavirus infection, and the case investigation forms, which includes information of each patient, including the occupation and travel history.

The problem lies with the case investigation forms, which are submitted by hospitals and contact tracing teams, Ho said.

"Unfortunately, the data submitted to us are often incomplete or are in hard copies. Kung hindi kumpleto, isa-isang tatawagan po ng ating epidemiology bureau yung mga ospital para malaman yung lahat ng impormasyon (If these are incomplete, our epidemiology bureau will have to call each hospital to get all information)," Ho said.

For instance, "If the occupation field is left blank, we will never know from our database how many health workers were actually affected," she explained.

Ho said more than 10,000 of these forms are being encoded now, with the help of "partners and many employees" working from home.

"By Sunday, Apri 12, we aim to have zero encoding backlogs," Ho said.

"Ginagawan natin ito ng paraan para (We are trying to resolve this so) by Monday, we will have all these data encoded and we will have a more accurate picture of our cases," she added.

"We will be offline to catch up with the encoding for the next few days and be back on Sunday," Ho said, stressing that they will continue to provide updates on their social media accounts.

She added that all forms and lab results have to be submitted online starting this week to "save our epidemiology bureau time and effort to consolidate the results."

For the first time on Wednesday, the DOH released data on the number of health workers sick with COVID-19: 152 doctors and 63 nurses.

Overall, there are now 3,870 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, with 182 deaths and 96 recoveries.

The DOH announced 106 new cases -- relatively lower than previously reported surges -- but Ho said it is too early to say if this means the curve has flattened.