Flattening the Curve
COVID NUMBERS from the Department of Health dominated the government’s reports on its pandemic response. But with backlogs and discrepancies shrouding the health department’s daily data drop, the public was left to figure out what these numbers meant.
Up until April, the roll-out of results and reporting of figures was still plagued by week-long delays. The new cases and the backlogs were lumped together in the daily case bulletins. It was only in June that the health department began to categorize the cases as either “fresh” or “late.”
But the government continued to control the narrative by misrepresenting data and making false claims. With only a few exceptions, the media did little to check the numbers and correct misimpressions as well as to call out outright falsehoods.
CMFR cheered reports that pointed out discrepancies in government data. In May last year, a mere month after the government first announced that it would do “expanded testing,” the UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team had already flagged inconsistencies in the data drop such as missing numbers. Casting more doubt on the government’s official count, a special report by news.ABS-CBN.com examined how sources on COVID-19 deaths such as local chief executives and civil registrars showed that the actual number of deaths was higher than what government claimed.
The misinformation and distorted data government was providing continued well into August of last year. In terms of counting recoveries, DOH also failed to promptly adopt WHO protocols. The protocol tagging patients with mild or no symptoms as “recovered” two weeks after testing was only implemented in July, creating an artificial surge in reported daily recoveries.
While this needed further explanation for it to make sense, no account attempted to determine whether the new term was covering up the surge in cases.
Looking at our record-high numbers in August, Singapore-based Straits Times reported that the Philippines was likely to be Asia’s COVID-19 hotspot. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque refused to accept how badly the government was doing compared to the rest of the region. Unfortunately, the media did not challenge Roque’s claim. Except for a few reports, much of the coverage echoed the government spin.