On June 17, there were 61 fresh Covid-19 cases in Cuddalore, according to the district health officials. But when the daily bulletin issued by the state government came later that evening, the district had 77 Covid-19 positive cases against its name. The next day, there were 13 fresh cases as per the district health department and 17 new cases according to the state health department.
In Coimbatore, it was the opposite – the number of fresh cases was fewer in the state health department bulletin compared to that registered by the district health department. On June 16, while the Coimbatore district health department said 15 people had tested positive, the state health department showed only two fresh cases. The next day there were 31 positive cases in the district health department list and only two in the state bulletin. On June 18, the state bulletin data showed 23 new cases – higher than what district health officials reported for the day – indicating that unreported numbers from the previous days were included. However, on subsequent days, the numbers of the district health department were again higher than those in the state bulletin data.
In Madurai too there was mismatch in the numbers On June 19, 94 fresh cases were reported by the district authorities, but the state bulletin showed only 58 new cases. The next day, the state bulletin showed 90 cases in Madurai, still four short of numbers sent by the district the previous day.
This, health department officials say, could be due to the delay in assimilating the data as they take information coming to the Covid control room until midnight for the next day’s analysis. “Some districts like Tirupur don’t have labs. They send samples to Coimbatore for testing. In such cases, we reconcile figures and add them the next day,” said a senior public health official. “You may not be able to tally daily numbers because we may be adding numbers given to us the previous day.”
The time lag in some districts may be up to two days because sometimes, during reconciliation, district authorities have disagreement. “Some argue their district should be tagged based on source of infection while others say it should be based on residential address,” he said.
With data from districts finding its way into media along with state bulletin, the mismatch in numbers has often led to confusion. There is no clarity on district wise break-up of cases added to airport surveillance and railway surveillance columns.
Former director of public health Dr K Kolandasamy said it may be meaningless to argue over this now. “We must concentrate on respiratory hygiene, hand hygiene and protecting vulnerable people.”