The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) removed the column denoting total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in its statewise COVID-19 bifurcation from its website on Tuesday.
India currently ranks as the third worst country to be affected by COVID-19, according to data shared by the Johns Hopkins University.
BOOM reached out to ministry officials who stated that the website has undergone restructuring.
In the older versions of the website, the statewise data had four columns- total active cases, cured/discharged/migrated/, deaths, and total confirmed cases. This provided an easier overview to the total cases in the country as well as each state.
On July 28, the website underwent two different changes in the statistics that were reported. The new website, now shows, the statewise and nationwide daily rise or decline in number of active cases, the increase in recovered number of cases, and the increase in number of deaths. At the time of the morning update, the daily shift was included in brackets next to the total numbers.
At noon, the ministry added additional columns specifically highlighting the change in the last 24 hours. The table is now bifurcated into three main headings- active cases, cured/discharged/migrated cases, and deaths. These are further sub-divided into total and changes in the last 24 hours.
Although helpful to discern the changes in reporting and denoting a trend in the cases, the removal of the column stating the total number of confirmed cases is an indicator of less data transparency. Not only does the site visitor have to calculate each and every data metric for all the 35 states with cases, it is more time consuming for researchers, journalists, scientists, and statisticians working on COVID-19 data.
BOOM approached two senior officials from the health ministry. One of them asked us to speak to the joint secretary who was unavailable for comment. When asked if the column of total confirmed cases will be re-included, the official stated that the decision would be taken by higher authorities.
"The site is being restructured. People can calculate the total number of confirmed cases through the available statistics," said the other senior official who did not wish to be named. On being prodded about whether the column will be readded, the official said as per their discussions so far, the decision on inclusion of the total confirmed cases has not been discussed.
On July 21, researchers from Stanford University along with two individuals from the tech and aerosol industry in US and Switzerland, published a non-peer reviewed paper on disparity in COVID-19 data reporting across states in India. They quantitatively marked states according to the data that was available and accessible to the public. In their data availability metrics, they ranked states on the basis of daily and total confirmed cases, active ICU cases, recovered cases, quarantined cases, and deaths.
Their research showed that Uttar Pradesh performed worst while Karnataka was the best in terms of data reporting. The central MOHFW now falls short in reporting the total confirmed cases for states as well as the country.
Reporters from the Hindu had done a qualitative study about the disparities in data reporting, too. Many states have been pulled up for not reporting COVID-19 deaths. Death audits conducted in Delhi, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu showed that the states had disparities in their death reporting. On May 16, Delhi accounted for 194 deaths while data from crematoriums showed 426. Maharashtra added 1,328 deaths on June 15 while Tamil Nadu initiated a probe on June 11 after over 200 deaths went unreported.
Updated On: 2020-07-28T21:09:01+05:30