Centre asks Kerala to provide daily COVID updates


Health Ministry says bulk back-reporting by State skewed key pandemic monitoring indicators

Health Ministry says bulk back-reporting by State skewed key pandemic monitoring indicators

The Centre has asked Kerala to provide updated COVID-19 data daily stating that the bulk back-reporting after April 13 (a gap of five days on Monday) has skewed India’s key pandemic monitoring indicators including cases, deaths and the positivity rate.

“It has been observed that Kerala has reported its State-level COVID-19 data after a gap of five days [since April 13]. This has impacted and skewed the status of India’s key monitoring indicators such as cases, deaths and positivity. India has reported a 90% increase in new cases and 165% increase in positivity in a single day,” said Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal in his two-page communication.

He added that daily and diligent reporting of data were critical to arrive at a meaningful understanding of the pandemic situation and would help not only in tracking and monitoring but also in defining the strategies and plans at the Centre, State and district levels.

Emphasising the need for a regular and robust reporting mechanism of State-wise cases and deaths on a daily basis, the letter stated that since the start of the pandemic, the government had been receiving relevant data daily which had helped in proactive analysis and strategy building at the national level.

‘Data key’

Mr. Agarwal said the reporting of data was critical to arrive at a meaningful understanding of pandemic in the district, State and national levels and ensure that any anomalies, surge or emerging trends could be captured in a timely manner.

“This is especially relevant as it is a highly infectious disease and also has an associated risk of emergence of new variants. Quick and continuous update of data will assist in India’s fight against the pandemic,” the letter stated.

The Centre has now asked Kerala to ensure daily update of required details.

Kerala has reported 213 COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours, according to data updated at 8 a.m. on Monday. Out of which one death was reported on April 17 while 62 were designated COVID-19 deaths after receiving appeals based on the new guidelines of the Centre and the directions of the Supreme Court and the remaining 150 deaths were reported from April 13 to 16, according to the Union Health Ministry.

‘No longer needed’

Meanwhile, the Kerala government, after issuing COVID daily bulletins for a period of 800 days, stopped the daily data update on April 11.

The brief note issued by the office of the Health Minister had stated that the daily bulletins were no longer considered necessary as COVID transmission in the State had reached a level wherein it was not unmanageable and was no different from the transmission rates of other infectious diseases.

The department maintained that COVID data would be collected and monitored as usual and that it was only the daily bulletin that was being stopped. At a meeting of the State Rapid Response Team, it was mooted that the State may adopt a system of publishing a fortnightly report, which may be shared in the public domain.

However, public health experts had at the time pointed out that the State had to maintain transparency in COVID reporting and that the data had to be made available in the public domain.

Reacting to the Centre’s letter to the Principal Secretary (Health) chiding Kerala that daily and diligent reporting of data were critical for a meaningful understanding of the pandemic, a public health expert pointed out that in taking the arbitrary decision to stop daily reporting of COVID cases, Kerala seemed to have forgotten that this was a pandemic and that the Health Ministry was obliged to give a report to the World Health Organisation (WHO) also.

Gaps in daily reporting of data by Kerala, one of the States which had been reporting the highest number of daily COVID cases, will thus result in artificial spikes in cases and affect data sanctity, he pointed out.

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