The Malta Independent 22 September 2021, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Why the change? - Covid numbers and transparency

Wednesday, 15 September 2021, 09:02 Last update: about 6 days ago

As from last week, the health authorities have changed the statistics they provide in their daily bulletin with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The focus, according to Health Minister Chris Fearne, is now on the people needing treatment in hospital. The number of people at Mater Dei and how many of them are in intensive care used to be given in a line at the bottom of the daily table provided; now they are given at the top in a large point size.

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This change meant that the health authorities are no longer providing the public with the total number of cases that Malta has been compiling since the first was registered on 7 March 2020. We were getting closer to 40,000 cases before the decision to not provide such a detail was taken.

The total number of recoveries is also no longer forming part of the daily chart that is uploaded on the health authorities’ Facebook page.

Neither are they providing information about the number of swab tests taken every day, and the subsequent total.

We do not really understand this line of reasoning.

While, on the one hand, focusing on people in hospital and how many need intensive care is important, it is equally important to continue adding up the numbers and also to see the proportion of new cases in comparison with the number of swab tests.

Just as much as the people should be informed on how the hospital is coping with the pandemic – and the numbers in this case have been stable for a few weeks – they should also be given other information that could help them see the bigger picture.

The health authorities have however chosen to withdraw this information, which we are sure they are keeping to themselves. We were promised transparency when the pandemic started, but this latest move goes contrary to this.

One could argue that people can still get to the total of cases by adding up the new cases to the previous day’s tally. They could also add up the number of new recoveries to the previous day’s total. Yes, we could do that, but why was this information withdrawn by those responsible for the official figures?

Then again, there is no way that we could get to the number of swab tests taken daily, so this information is no longer available to the public.

There is another piece of information that is not being given – and this is whether the people receiving treatment in hospital are vaccinated or otherwise.

The government has made it a point to tell us over and over again that Malta is in the forefront in Europe, possibly the world, when it comes to the percentage of people who are fully vaccinated. We have been told several times how vaccination helps to reduce the chances of contagion and that, if vaccinated people still get the virus, the risks of complications is reduced.

So why are we not being told how many patients being taken care of for Covid-19 in hospital are vaccinated?

Again, we are certain the authorities know this information. We are also sure that this information strengthens the argument that vaccination goes a long way to cut down on the risks of the infected. So, again we ask, why are we not being told this?

One last thing – there seems to be a discrepancy in the number of active cases. This statistic is obtained by taking the total number of cases, and reducing the total number of people who recovered and the number of deaths. We are being told by the health authorities that there are some 700 active cases currently in Malta. But if you carry out the mathematical exercise explained earlier one gets a figure which is nearer 1,100. So where is the error?

 

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