Covid-19: Why are health bulletins often delayed in Capital?

  • The health bulletins were also not uploaded on the Delhi government website on May 3 and May 4, even as the administration released them to reporters and on social media.
Experts say that the quick sharing of data is the essence of public health action.(PTI Photo/Manvender Vashist)(PTI)
Experts say that the quick sharing of data is the essence of public health action.(PTI Photo/Manvender Vashist)(PTI)
Published on May 06, 2021 12:19 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

On Tuesday, the Delhi government failed to release its crucial daily health bulletin, which gives updates on the city’s Covid-19 numbers from the previous day. This was the third time since the pandemic hit the national Capital in March 2020 that the government has been unable to release the bulletin till the end of the day.

The second wave of Covid-19 across the country, and the fourth in Delhi, has turned out to be the deadliest one yet in terms of cases and deaths. Delhi is currently recording an average of nearly 23,000 new Covid cases and nearly 400 deaths every day over the past seven days. While every state issues bulletins, some later than others, Delhi’s health bulletins over the past several weeks have often been released late in the night, even though the data is from the previous day -- a decision taken last year after a health bulletin was missed (the logic being that it would be easier to compile the previous day’s data).

Experts say that the quick sharing of data is the essence of public health action. “This is a national health emergency and Delhi is now the worst hit city-state. At such a critical juncture, it is critical to release data to the public on time. I do not know if it was just not released to the public, and if officials had it on time. This approach may hinder timely interventions in pandemic management,” said Dr Lalit Kant, former head of the department of epidemiology at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

The health bulletins were also not uploaded on the Delhi government website on May 3 and May 4, even as the administration released them to reporters and on social media.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Delhi government admitted Tuesday’s delay. “We’d like to sincerely apologise for the delay in sending the health bulletin. It has always been our effort to lay the facts bare in front of the people. Health bulletins are an indicator of how we fare, what factors remain a matter of concern, where the government needs to take immediate measures and where the public can hold us to account. We’re deeply sorry and regret that we were unable to share an important document yesterday. What we can promise, is that this will never happen again in the future. We are also looking into the reasons why it was delayed,” the statement said.

The Tuesday bulletin (with Monday’s data, as per the norm), was released at 8.55am on Wednesday. Later that afternoon, the Wednesday bulletin was released as well. A government spokesperson said that there was a serious effort being made to rectify the problem, and that the bulletin would be released in the afternoons, rather than late in the evenings, from now on.

The other days when the bulletin did not come till midnight were June 9, 2020 (it was released at 5.30am on June 10); and on April 28 (when it was put out at 12.11am on April 29).

A senior official said on condition of anonymity said that a bulk of the data used to prepare the bulletin generally come in by 1pm. “This is the data of the previous day. It comes from hospitals and our team compiles it. These days, because of the surge in case, a few batches of numbers come in by evening, because of which the bulletin sometimes gets delayed. Also, officials who need to sign the bulletin are often in some meeting or the other to handle the Covid-19 crisis.”

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