3 million unreported COVID-19 cases a ‘stretch,’ says UP prof

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020. Filed under: News

MANILA, Aug 22 (Mabuhay) — The estimation that three million Filipinos with COVID-19 remained under the radar from April to June was rather unlikely, Professor Guido David from the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Mathematics said Friday.

“Maybe I could buy that there were more cases than what was reported, particularly in certain demographic groups, but I think three million is a stretch,” David said in an online forum.

“I’m not saying it’s impossible. In theory, it is possible, anything is possible. But the likelihood of that seems very low to me,” he added.

A member of the UP research team publishing reports on COVID-19, David said that if the numbers derived from the Ateneo de Manila University study were true, the Philippines would have some 12 million COVID-19 cases by now, considering that figures are doubling every month.

The professor underscored that he welcomes other studies and models on the pandemic but in the spirit of weighing if the recent estimate should be taken seriously, he enumerated three important points.

David said the methodology employed in the study was quite problematic because it used the case fatality rate (CFR) of Singapore as a baseline.

“Case fatality rate is different across different countries. In some countries it’s higher but in some countries like Singapore, it’s a lot lot low,” David said, attributing varying CFRs to different health care systems.

He also pointed out that during the period covered by the study, the positivity rate of those who had been tested was still low.

“Admittedly we did not have a lot of tests back in April, May, and then June we started to increase our testing capacity, but at that time, our positivity rate was only 5%. The 5% is actually the world’s standard and it’s actually very low,” David said.

“If there were more, there should have been more positive test results,” he added.

Lastly, he emphasized that the hospital occupancy at that time was not very high.

“It’s a given that more than half of them will have symptoms even mild symptoms, More of them would have gone to hospitals. The fact that they did not go to hospitals and fill up the hospitals suggest that we did not have that many cases,” David said.

While acknowledging that there are unreported cases of COVID-19 in the country, the professor said he does not think it is deliberately being done by the government.

“They are reporting what they have. There is no  deliberate intention to hide the number of cases but I think  lot of cases may have gone unreported–not just because we lack testing– but I think citizens are afraid to come out and let people know that they have symptoms, they have mild symptoms,” David said.

Citing anecdotal accounts, David said this fear of getting detected as positive for the virus is driven by the threat of losing jobs and facing stigma, among others.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Department of Health would have to further look into the study. (MNS)

ALSO READ: Philippines logs 4,339 new COVID-19 cases, total tops 178,000

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