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Receipts with facts: An Ateneo study claims 3 million COVID cases may have been unreported

Insert Jason Bateman’s “I didn’t know what I expected” clip here

A new study from the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU)-Department of Economics called “An Empirical Argument for Mass Testing: Crude Estimates of Unreported COVID-19 Cases in the Philippines vis-à-vis Others in the ASEAN-5” reveals what most of us may have already speculated. The paper estimates that around three million COVID-19 cases were unreported in our country from April to June. If there’s any proof needed that we need mass testing ASAP, this is definitely it. 

“Noon pa man, meron nang agam-agam, meron nang haka-haka patungkol sa underreporting. At ang ginawa lamang natin ay magbigay ng number kung gaano ba kalala ang underreporting na ito,” says Jan Frederick Cruz of ADMU-Department of Economics on GMA Network’s “Unang Hirit” earlier today, Aug. 20. “Ang pinagbasehan kasi natin dito sa computation, crude estimation lang naman siya based sa isang papel na na-i-publish sa isang academic journal several months ago.”

Cruz’s methodology was based on a study called “Evaluating the Massive Underreporting and Undertesting of COVID-19 Cases in Multiple Global Epicenters.” In this study, the process targeted to determine the definite number of COVID-19 cases using the estimate of confirmed infections and fatalities in countries like the US, South Korea, Japan, China, France and Italy. He applied this methodology in his study by focusing on the ASEAN-5: Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.

According to Cruz, the Philippines is the worst among the five countries when it comes to controlling the spread of the infection. His study also reports that 96 percent to 99 percent of coronavirus cases in these countries were undetected from April to June. “Roughly three million Filipinos (2.6 percent of the national population) may have been infected by the virus in the same period—the worst record in the ASEAN-5 group in percentage terms,” indicates the study.

Cruz however acknowledges that our testing capacity has improved. But he believes in the need for mass testing, adding that it will prove the nation’s response to the pandemic.

“I understand na ayaw ng gobyerno na tawagin siyang mass testing at ang preferred label nila expanded targeted testing pero regardless of terminology ang importante makapag-test tayo ng maraming tao,” says Cruz. “Nang sa gayon, meron tayong pagkakatiwalaang datos ng impormasyon na pagbabatayan noong susunod nating gagawin.”

He also points out that the quarantine will be rendered useless without mass testing. “Kung paulit-ulit tayong nag-la-lockdown. Pinipilit natin ‘yung mga tao na maging tambay sa bahay nila for a very long period,” explains Cruz. “But, after the lockdown, after this strict quarantine, hindi natin alam paglabas nila safe na ba sila.”

Enraged citizens have since been demanding mass testing for months. Now, we have the data to prove its necessity. The question is, will they finally cave in and give it to us?

Read more:
In pandemic news, Malacañang “beats” UP with 37,514-40,000 “victory”
The gov’t says it isn’t doing mass testing, but “expanded target testing”
Harry Roque’s advice amid 47,873 cases: “Sasayawan natin ang COVID-19”

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Rogin Losa
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