‘Fresh’ or ‘late’ cases? DOH still validating 6,800 coronavirus tests

Sofia Tomacruz
The health department says the backlog comes from 14 laboratories that have yet to submit a list of all test results conducted since the beginning of their operations

TESTING BACKLOG. Police officers along with other front line workers undergo mass testing at he San Juan Elementary School on May 12, 2020. Photo by KD Madrilejos/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Health authorities have 6,800 coronavirus tests to validate to clear its backlog, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Monday, June 1.

In a message to health reporters, Vergeire said the unvalidated tests account for the discrepancy between confirmed cases and unique positive cases as of May 30. 

The DOH keeps a tally of both confirmed and positive cases, although positive cases are only added to confirmed cases on the day they are validated by the agency. 

We have around 6,800 pa na kailangan pong i-validate natin, na atin pong pagtatrabahuan sa susunod na araw. Magkaroon na po tayo ng at least approximation between the unique individuals tested and those confirmed positive for COVID-19,” Vergeire said during a press briefing in Malacañang on Monday.

(We have around 6,800 [tests] that we still need to validate and will work on validating in the next few days. [Following this] we’ll have an approximation between the unique individuals tested and those confirmed positive for COVID-19.)  

While 6,800 tests still need to be validated, Vergeire said not all may end up part of the confirmed number of cases. 

“That may not be the exact count because these numbers will be validated once they are submitted to EB (epidemiology bureau). [It’s] possible there are duplicates, so the number of confirmed cases can still be lower,” Vergeire told reporters in a mix of English and Filipino.

Vergeire said the 6,800 tests came from 14 laboratories that had yet to submit their “line lists.” The DOH said line lists contain “all test results conducted since the beginning of the laboratory’s operation.”  

Why is validation needed? The DOH said validation of tests would ensure cases were not recorded in duplicates and that all test results had been submitted to the DOH. 

Since the DOH announced it was aiming to clear its backlog of some 12,000 unvalidated tests, the new system of validating prompted the department to present new confirmed cases daily as either “fresh” cases (results released to patient within the last 3 days) or “late” cases (4 days or more after result released to patient). 

The peculiar method of documenting new confirmed cases has drawn criticism from lawmakers, who said it was as though DOH was not honest with its data, and that doing so would only further confuse the public.  

Vergeire denied this, saying the DOH has been been transparent with its numbers since day one. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.