Telangana website and bulletin show different COVID-19 data, govt denies foul play

Over the last few days, many pointed out that there was a gap in the number of cases in the official website and the figure given in the bulletin.
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The Telangana government on Saturday denied claims that it was hiding data related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Telangana government has never hidden any data. There is no need for that. We are fully transparent," Director of Public Health and Family Welfare, Dr G Srinivasa Rao, declared at a press meet in Hyderabad.

The senior official was responding to questions raised by citizens and activists after a report emerged about two different sets of data being released to the public -- one through the daily bulletin and one through the COVID-19 website

On Friday, the website showed that there were over 3,000 more confirmed cases than the figure given in the bulletin, triggering off confusion among several people. While the bulletin released to the media gave 20,462 as the total number of cases in Telangana, the website showed over 23,790 cases for the state.

The large difference prompted many to claim that the government was either hiding or fudging data, a claim that has been doing the rounds on social media for over a week.

Responding to this, Dr Srinivasa blamed two things for the gap between the figures.

"Firstly, the data is dynamic. As far as the dashboard is concerned, it is updated automatically as each district administration updates its numbers. However, there are many cases where a person who is a native of a district lives in Hyderabad. On their Aadhar card, it will say their native address, but their residential address will be different. We take all this into account in the bulletin," he said.

Stating that "all data including that on deaths was being reported," the senior official also found fault with private labs in Hyderabad who had recently been given permission to begin tests for the coronavirus.

Director of Medical Education (DME) Dr K Ramesh Reddy told reporters that they noticed that data from the private labs was 'erratic'.

"They're submitting different figures in different portals. So we formed a committee and directly went to the labs and conducted checks. Some discrepancies were found. Certain labs didn't have proper safety measures and didn't take enough precautions," he said.

Dr Ramesh was quick to add that it was the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) which gave the labs permission, and not the Telangana government.

"We have issued notices to them to rectify the problems and they can only conduct tests after that. Now, this data from the labs is being evaluated by an expert committee. Then we will decide what to do with the data," he added.

Dr Srinivasa Rao said that out of the 23 labs which had ICMR approval, discrepancies were found in 13 labs, mainly related to quality control, number of tests done and an abnormally high positivity rate

"We will take stringent action in the future if such cases come up again. If needed, we will even close labs. The government is already doing over 5,000 tests each day and 70-75% of the samples are from Hyderabad. There are arrangements made. Our appeal to people is that healthy people do not come to us and demand a test," he said.

Dr Ramesh Reddy also said that government hospitals were fully equipped to tackle the pandemic.

"Excellent treatment is available in government hospitals. Senior doctors work with us and facilities are being improved each day. The Telangana Institute of Medical Sciences (TIMS) will be operational from next week. Recruitment of staff is complete and training is ongoing," he told reporters.

As of Friday, Telangana has reported 20,462 cases of COVID-19, out of which 9,984 are active as 10,195 people have recovered and 283 have succumbed to the virus.

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