PCOO’s graph on world COVID-19 deaths excludes factors affecting mortality rate

May 11, 2021 - 9:59 AM
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A Filipino Catholic wearing a face mask and shield for protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) prays after lighting a candle on Ash Wednesday at Baclaran Church, Paranaque City, Metro Manila, Philippines, February 17, 2021. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

The Presidential Communications Operations Office shared a graph that only showed a partial picture of the COVID-19 death rate ranking of the Philippines worldwide.

In a post on May 10, the PCOO Global Media Affairs account released a graph that showed the Philippines supposedly has low death rate compared to other countries in the world, citing data from the Coronavirus Resource Center of the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.

“LOOK: The Coronavirus Resource Center of the Johns Hopkins University and Medicine based in the US released on Sunday, May 9, the latest update on the mortality rate of the top 20 countries most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the post read.

In the graph, the Philippines was second to the last country in the number of COVID-19-related deaths at 16.74%, next to Pakistan at 8.68%, compared to other 18 countries in the world.

The comparison was based on deaths per 100,000 population.

The same information could also be found on the John Hopkins website. As of May 9, the Philippines has a mortality rate of 16.90% and placed 19th in the ranking of top 20 countries with the most COVID-19 deaths.

The PCOO Global Media Affairs, however, did not include the factors that affect the mortality rates of different countries, according to the international tracker.

“Countries throughout the world have reported very different case fatality ratios—the number of deaths divided by the number of confirmed cases,” the tracker explained.

These factors are:

  • Differences in the number of people tested
  • Demographics
  • Characteristics of the healthcare system
  • Other factors, many of which remain unknown

Some Filipinos on Twitter pointed out this missing context.

“Misleading. Nilagyan niyo sana ng context,” one user wrote.

“Hello po, wala na pong Twitter crop. You can include all the other 100+ countries,” another user said.

Some users also questioned why PCOO included countries outside Southeast Asia in mortality rates.

“Grabe ang cherry-picking. Bakit hindi binase sa continent (Asia) or region (Southeast Asia) man lang?” one user said.

The same chart showed that the Philippines ranked second in terms of the number of deaths per 100,000 population in Southeast Asia.

The state-run Philippine News Agency similarly shared an infographic that supposedly showed the Philippines has a 92.7% recovery rate compared to its neighbors in Southeast Asia, citing data from Worldometer.

Some Filipinos, including popular science organization Earth Shaker Philippines, criticized such interpretation of data and noted that the Philippines also ranked third in term of COVID-19 deaths in the region.

READ: Researchers’ case fatality rate data in ASEAN juxtaposed with recovery rate posted by state-run news agency

As of May 9, the Philippines ranked first in terms of daily deaths per million people with 1.36%.

Screenshot of the death rate in Southeast Asia from Our World in Data on May 10, 2021

In the latest update on May 10, the Department of Health reported 6,846 additional infections which brought the total to 1,108,826 cases.

There are also 90 new deaths, which summed up to 18,562 death toll.

There also 8,193 recoveries, which brought the total to 1,030,367.