MANILA – The Philippines has adjusted its Covid-19 data to reflect a higher number of people dying than previously reported.
Health officials announced 227 deaths on Monday (July 13), a spike from a daily average of about 10 in previous days. That raised the total to 1,599 deaths since February.
But they explained this was due to better record-keeping.
Most were recorded from the previous three months, but landed on the Health Ministry’s official tally only on Sunday following a recent “harmonisation” of data, they said.
“We expect more deaths to be reported in the coming days as a result of our data reconciliation efforts,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters on Monday.
She assured people, though, that the situation, while worrying, was still manageable, as latest reports showed there were still fewer people dying from the coronavirus in recent weeks.
“We wish to clarify: It doesn’t mean that the 162 deaths we tallied yesterday (July 12) meant 162 people died only yesterday,” she said.
After she spoke, the Health Ministry updated its database and reported an additional 65 deaths, raising the total number announced on Monday to 227.
Dr Vergeire explained that the surge was due to late submissions from local governments.
Out of the 227 deaths reported on Monday, only 60 occurred this month.
One hundred and forty-four were recorded in June, while 22 came from May, and just one from April.
“We are still on a downward trend,” said Dr Vergeire.
She said most of those who died last month and in recent weeks had been in Cebu City, which saw a wave of infections that rivalled those in the capital region in the latter half of June. Cebu had since been on lockdown.
Of the 162 deaths reported on Monday morning, 99 were in Cebu. Metropolitan Manila accounted for 37 deaths.
Still, the number of new infections continued to hover around 2,000 each day.
On Monday, the Health Ministry reported 836 new Covid-19 cases. The Philippines now has 57,006 total cases, the highest in South-east Asia after Indonesia.
“Should we be worried? Yes. One too many deaths is a concern,” said Dr Vergeire.
She reiterated that while the higher numbers were simply in line with better record-keeping, the situation could quickly spiral out of control if the public continues to flout social distancing guidelines and other basic health requirements such as wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings.
“No amount of medical intervention will work. The solution lies in us,” she said.
Health officials have said cases are rising because more people are out and about, with the lockdown now lifted.
Mr Duterte lifted a three-month lockdown on June 1. Since then, the government has allowed offices, factories, logistics hubs, malls, restaurants, salons, sports facilities and churches to reopen.
Buses, trains, jeepneys, motorised rickshaws, taxis and ride-sharing vehicles are back on the road.
Experts from the state-run University of the Philippines said the number could hit 60,000 by the end of this month.
“It could even hit 70,000,” Professor Guido David told radio station DZBB. At that rate, he said, cases could leap to 100,000 by end-August.