Reported Covid-19 deaths vs actual Covid-19 deaths: What’s the difference? CPRC’s data chief explains

·2-min read
The forensics team prepares to transport the body of a recently deceased Covid-19 patient to a burial site from the Penang General Hospital, August 24, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
The forensics team prepares to transport the body of a recently deceased Covid-19 patient to a burial site from the Penang General Hospital, August 24, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 — What is the difference between reported Covid-19 deaths and actual Covid-19 deaths?

In a bid to clear up any confusion that might have arisen over the terminology, the Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre’s (CPRC) data head Dr Mahesh Appannan took to Twitter today to offer a detailed explanation to the public.

In a Twitter thread, Dr Mahesh said reported deaths are based on the day that the cases are announced to the public, which so far, has been the data that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has reported.

Actual deaths, on the other hand, are based on the true date of death, he explained.

“In Malaysia, we report deaths due to Covid, rather than deaths with Covid. Due to Covid = clinical investigation has found that cause of death (CoD) was Covid.

“Deaths with Covid = the patient was Covid+ at time of death (or a short period before). We focus on deaths due to Covid because it is important to have the correct number for analysis of vaccine effectiveness, case fatality rate, etc,” the senior principal assistant director of the CPRC’s disease control division added.

Dr Mahesh said that this process, however, is time consuming, as it requires an autopsy and clinical audit, rather than just checking if a patient is Covid-19 positive.

He explained that in July and August, medical frontliners were extremely overwhelmed, especially those based in the Klang Valley, which led to some delays in investigation and reporting.

This means that investigations into some death cases, which happened several weeks ago, are only being concluded, audited and reported now.

“So, how do we report backlogged data to the Malaysian public? We want to be transparent about the death numbers. But it is also vital for us to have a proper picture of the trend — in the Klang Valley, deaths are clearly going down, not up — as expected with high vax per cent).

“Therefore, MOH made a decision to be transparent about both numbers. We are being very clear how many were reported. However, we are also categorising the reported cases according to the true date of death, so the rakyat and policymakers can get a proper picture,” Dr Mahesh added.

He said that all of the data is made transparent in MoH’s Github, in terms of both national and state level figures.

“We provide numbers according to reported and actual date of death, both for overall and for BID specifically,” he said, using the acronym to refer to Brought-In-Dead cases.

He said that Malaysia also makes its death list public, and is one of the few countries which reveals this.

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