4,000 deaths go unrecorded in official tally—ex-adviser

Some 4,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the Philippines may not have been included in the government's official tally as many people severely ill with the disease have succumbed to it without actually getting tested, a former adviser of the task force against the pandemic said Sunday.

Dr. Tony Leachon
READ: 4,963 new virus cases put PH near 100k

“My view is there are around 4,000 underreported deaths. Many of those who go to emergency rooms in our hospital, at the Philippine General Hospital and in many other hospitals, the patients would only come to the hospital already in serious condition because, of course, they don’t have money,” said Dr. Tony Leachon, former special adviser of the COVID-19 task force, said in an interview on ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo.

“So, they are not recorded. But when they go through an X-ray test, it would  show the patients have COVID-19 pneumonia. But again, we can’t report them [as COVID-19 deaths]),” he said, speaking in Filipino.

“Some arrive in the hospital already severely infected, and we no longer have the chance to conduct a swab test on them. And they die there. But our diagnosis is based on the swab test.,” he added.

The Department of Health (DOH) cumulative tally of COVID-19 fatalities was at 2,039 on Saturday, out of the country’s 98,232 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections.

Leachon cited the most recent study by researchers from the University of the Philippines that projects the death toll to reach around 4,000 by the end of August, out of 150,000 COVID-19 cases.

Leachon said the Philippines has one of the fastest “acceleration” of reported cases of the disease in Southeast Asia, and is in fact the No. 1 in the number of active cases.

Along with Indonesia, which has recorded 109,936 cases as of Saturday, the Philippines, among Southeast Asian countries, has not flattened its curve, he said, describing the status as similar to a “step ladder.”

He also urged the government to take appropriate measures to prevent the country's health care system from being overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, the Gabriela Women's Party on Sunday slammed the Department of Health's (DOH’s) new mass recovery adjustment in which patients with mild or no symptoms are now considered recovered 14 days after the date of specimen collection.

In a statement, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said that "the outright data manipulation is a manifestation that the Duterte administration has no plans to end the pandemic and opts to feed the Filipino people false information to pacify growing dissent."

The lawmaker also said the government should heed the call of health care frontliners to come up with a consolidated, definitive plan of action rather than tweaking data and definitions to fit their preferred narrative.

"Various hospitals and health organizations are already speaking out and asking for mass testing, financial aid, and livelihood for the masses in order to contain the rising cases of COVID-19. The government needs to listen to the doctors instead of doctoring the numbers,” she said.

Brosas also said the government's militarist response to the pandemic has made the crisis worse as public health experts were set aside in favor of the President's close allies from the ranks of the military and police.

READ: Retagging hikes new cases to record high at 4,063

READ: DOH retags data; cases spike

Topics: COVID-19 , Tony Leachon , Arlene Brosas , Department of Health , University of the Philippines
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