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Managed data, fake news

Changing the method of publicizing the figures at this time in the pandemic will not contribute to soothing worries.




The type of information being passed around in an emergency situation is a matter of life and death, particularly those that involve the conduct of government operations related to containing the coronavirus.

That is the reason for the public dismay over the Department of Health (DoH), which keeps on changing the reporting procedure for the daily coronavirus infection tally with the apparent aim of managing the figures.

It was a deceptive policy that only contributed to the type of misinformation swirling, such as a report of a beleaguered news outfit which is bent on inflaming public sentiment.

According to the fake news, a Cebu-based journalist was detained amid the imposition of the strictest enhanced community quarantine measure (ECQ) in Cebu City.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) labeled the report “erroneous” and the journalist herself, Sheriz Mae Uy of Banat News, denied that it happened.

“I am posting this to correct this erroneous report by Rappler. It was true that I was stopped by a SAF trooper, but I was not detained,” Uy said in her Facebook post on 4 July 2020.

“I hope this story will be rectified to avoid things from blowing out of proportion,” Uy said. “I hope this clarification will put the issue to rest. I am aware of the challenges that our policemen are facing in this time of crisis.”

Uy also apologized to the PNP “if this report caused undue stress on the part of our valiant law enforcers.”

The public, needless to say, is counting on media and the government, the primary source of information, to report only the truth as accurate knowledge acts as guide for them to take actions accordingly.

Whatever is the reasoning or excuse, the DoH is adopting a new reporting format in which it will drop the categorization of fresh cases from “late,” which are those positive results belatedly submitted and were validated recently.

The scheme will constitute a “new means” of reporting wherein the DoH “will just provide the additional cases that are coming in.”

While the plan obviously was in response to the confusion generated by the several sets of figures being released daily, the itemized data is already helping experts and those with an appreciation of statistics a clear indication of the trajectory of the disease through the current or “fresh” cases.

The shift in format also creates suspicion after two successive days when the numbers of those infected exceeded 2,000, with the fresh numbers higher than the backlog that was used as an excuse for earlier uptrends.

The spike in positive individuals puts the Philippines second only to Indonesia in terms of number of cases, overtaking Singapore, which had suffered a second wave of contaminations.

No matter the impact of information, the manner by which this is disseminated should remain constant even at the pain of being unpalatable.

Rather than change the method, the DoH should exert more vigorous effort in giving the public a rundown of the figures.

A detail from the records showed 1,258 fresh cases came from National Capital Region and 601 from Region 7 or Central Visayas that includes hotspot, Cebu City, 280.

The figures for Metro Manila or NCR broke records for the second straight day.

Changing the method of publicizing the figures at this time in the pandemic will not contribute to soothing worries, but rather contribute to the suspicion of stonewalling.