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Covid-19 numbers: ‘Errors & Omissions’ raise a scare in Kerala

Our Bureau Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on May 10, 2021

Authorities, however, allay fears over 83.33 per cent test positivity rate for Athirappilly panchayat

Errors and omissions (E&O) excepted, is a phrase used in an attempt to reduce legal liability for potentially incorrect or incomplete information supplied in a contractually related document such as a quotation or specification, says Wikipedia.

But when the E&O bug creeps into Covid-19-related numbers, its impact on disease burden statistics could be no less incapacitating to the credibility of the reporting system as that of the virus on the human body. An ‘exceptional’ instance to this effect is being reported from Kerala.

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Extreme high number

Athirappilly panchayat in Thrissur district, which houses a major local tourist attraction in the form of an eponymous waterfall, reported a stunningly revealing test positivity rate of 83.33 per cent as flashed to the State war room on Sunday.

But district health authorities now say this ‘explosive number’ was derived from a very small base in terms of the number of people tested at the Vettilappara Family Health Centre in the panchayat. Only 18 people were tested here on Sunday out which 15 emerged Covid-positive, they said.

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The panchayat has been closed down for quite some time, the district health authorities aver. The ‘erroneously high’ positivity rate came out only because of the very few numbers of samples tested, only to be expected during a period of aggravated spread.

Blamed on data entry error

The district authorities say that a directive has been sent out to various centres to take at least 100 samples every time the testing is carried out. Meanwhile, the Family Health Centre from where the ‘83.33 per cent’ was reported has come out with a different version of the episode.

It blamed a data entry error for the high test positivity number. The total number of samples tested was in fact higher at 44, out of which 15 had tested positive, officials said. This makes for a test positivity rate of ‘only 35 per cent,’ even if way above the tolerable maximum of 15 per cent.

Small consolation for Thrissur

Even if there is a mismatch in the numbers, it becomes known in the public domain only after the State government publishes it. The high test positivity ratio for entire Thrissur district at 31.34 per cent on Sunday was based on the ‘83.33 per cent’ from Athirappilly, which is being corrected now.

But it is small consolation since the figure with respect to at least 11 panchayats in the district has sailed past the 50-per cent mark. These are (in percentage figures) 72.94 at Kadappuram; 70.64 in Chowwannoor; 63.06 at Vadanappally; 60.92 per cent in Guruvayoor (municipality); 59.26 at Panjal; 57.95 in Choondal; 53.57 at Desamagalam; 57.03 at Chelakkara; 51.35 at Kadangod and 50.35 in Thekkumkara.

Test positivity rate for the State as a whole for Kerala on Sunday was at 28.88 per cent, with daily new cases clocking in at 35,801. The only relief is improved recoveries at 29,318, which is in keeping with a trend over the past week or so. Number of deaths reached a new high of 68, taking the cumulative toll to 5,814.

Published on May 10, 2021

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