The following is a preliminary report on the causes of death in the Philippines for January to December 2020. It was prepared by Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) undersecretary Dennis Mapa. The report was publicized by the PSA on March 16, 2021.
In this report, we see the data on the top 20 causes of mortality in the Philippines for the year 2020. The top three causes of death remains the same as the last five years. Ischemic heart diseases, remain as the leading cause of death in the country, claiming 99,680 lives in 2020 compared to 97,475 the previous year (2.2% increase). Meanwhile, cancer (or neoplasms), the second leading cause of death, claimed 62,289 lives in 2020, down from 68,657 cases in 2019 (9.28% decrease). Deaths due to cerebrovascular diseases decreased in 2020, claiming 59,736 lives, compared to 63,548 in 2019 (6% decrease).Data for registered deaths for 2019 may be found here: https://psa.gov.ph/content/registered-deaths-philippines-2019
COVID-19 deaths, which included both confirmed and probable cases, reached 27,967. Of these deaths, 19,758 were categorized under “COVID-19 virus not identified”, This code is defined by the ICD-10 as “COVID-19 is diagnosed clinically or epidemiologically but laboratory testing is inconclusive or not available, see … Continue reading while the remaining 8,209 are categorized under “COVID-19 virus identified”.This is defined by the ICD-10 as “COVID-19 has been confirmed by laboratory testing irrespective of severity of clinical signs or symptoms, read … Continue reading
Deaths due to assault decreased by 32% in 2020 (from 8,800 in 2019 to 6,000 in 2020). Meanwhile, deaths due to transport accidents also fell by 37.4%, from 12,800 in 2019 to 8,017 in 2020.
Pneumonia, which has consistently been one of the leading causes of death in the Philippines in the past decade, is the biggest loser. Pneumonia death decreased by 48%, from 62,719 in 2019 to 32,574 in 2020. According to PSA, pneumonia deaths in 2020 was lower by 24,256 from the 5-year average.
Editor’s Note: When we published the article Despite COVID-19, Philippines registers 3% lower deaths in 2020, our critics said that the drop in the number of deaths in 2020 was the positive result of the lockdown. According to them, some of the diseases that caused deaths in the Philippines were prevented through stay-at-home orders and the obsessive adherence to basic health protocols. At first glance, this new report from PSA may seem to corroborate their claim. After all, the drop in deaths due to assault and vehicular accidents could have come from the lockdowns, since mobility was restricted during this period.
There is something really odd about this report. After decades of continuously increasing deaths due to cancer, cerebrovascular diseases, and pneumonia, in 2020, deaths due to these causes suddenly decreased. Is this a new miracle gifted to us by COVID-19?
A discerning eye will know immediately what is wrong. The two new categories, “COVID-19 virus not identified” and “COVID-19 virus identified” are suspicious. The first category, “COVID-19 virus not identified” refers to decedents who presented with COVID-19 symptoms, but were not confirmed by a laboratory test. To be included under this category, a doctor’s testimony would be enough. This where the problem begins.
There are thousands of diseases that are not COVID-19 but would register the same symptoms! A simple flu, a cough, a throat problem, LBM or even the common pneumonia, can all be classified as COVID-19 under this category. Should we even wonder why deaths due to pneumonia, chronic lower respiratory infections, and respiratory tuberculosis have all fallen this year? How will the doctor differentiate between these illnesses and COVID-19? This means that 19,758 deaths due to “COVID-19 virus not identified” are nothing more than guesses! They shouldn’t even be classified as COVID at all!
The second category, “COVID-19 virus identified”, is even more suspicious. Deaths under this category include ALL patients who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 upon their death. It doesn’t matter if there were no COVID symptoms present [False positives are a reality in a country like the Philippines, where our cycle thresholds are so high, see New York Times: More experts questioning RT-PCR testing, WHO lowers cycle thresholds for PCR tests]. This means that anybody who dies from a different illness other than COVID such as cancer or even a car accident, can be classified as a COVID death if laboratory results turn out to be positive!
This illustrates a clear double standard in classifying COVID deaths where one definition would focus on the symptoms only and not the laboratory test and another contradicting definition focusing on the laboratory tests only while totally disregarding the symptoms. No wonder COVID deaths are so high! This statistical hocus pocus will easily explain why pneumonia deaths fell by almost 50% compared to the 5 year average! The usual annual deaths due to pneumonia has been miscategorized as COVID-19.Indeed, some hospitals knowingly misclassify cases in order to take advantage of the financial benefit allotted by the government for COVID-19 patients. Here are two examples, read … Continue reading
Now if people want to insist that lockdowns and health protocols were so effective at preventing pneumonia, chronic lower respiratory infections, and respiratory tuberculosis then please, explain why cancer deaths, deaths due to cerebrovascular disease, other heart disease, diseases of the genitourinary system, diseases of the liver, certain conditions originating in perinatal period, and diseases of the nervous system also fell in 2020? We expected that deaths due to cancer and other chronic diseases would increase due to the hard lockdown and the cancellation of all elective treatments and surgeries. This was, after all, the experience in other countries. Late diagnoses, and the inability of patients to access necessary treatment should have increased deaths of chronic diseases. But this is not what we are seeing in the Philippines. These diseases are non-communicable. Did we somehow find the solution to cancer while our hospitals were turning away cancer patients? Did the lockdown suddenly stop strokes and aneurysms? Did we finally find the remedy for severe asthma, and cardiac arrest? Any one with a critical mind will know this to be impossible. The only possible explanation is that these deaths have been misclassified too or they were under-reported or not reported at all!
Back in April 2020, one of the first issues we raised was the lack of distinction between deaths DUE TO COVID and deaths WITH COVID. Now we are seeing the impact of that mistake. These erroneous data do not help us in our effort to control COVID-19, they only muddle the situation. Our guess is that mainstream media will take the 27,000 deaths due to COVID and run away with it, without bothering to look at the bigger picture of missing statistics and erroneous classification.
Now let’s look at the huge difference between COVID deaths reported by the Department of Health and PSA. We understand that the sources of data are different, but we need to ask: why is the PSA data greater than the DOH data by more than 100%?DOH data shows that COVID deaths for 2020 had a total of 10,622, see https://doh.gov.ph/2019-nCoV.
From here alone we can already say that data surveillance for COVID-19 in the Philippines is faulty. How can we trust the PSA data, given all the issues we have discussed above?
We insist that the category “COVID-19 virus not identified” be reclassified, or it must not be included in the COVID mortality rate. Meanwhile, we demand an audit of all deaths classified under “COVID-19 virus identified”, and those with chronic diseases, who did not die directly of COVID-19, must not be listed under this category.
To end this article, we want to go back to the topic of lockdown and coronavirus restrictions. Now even if we assume that the 8,209 deaths classified under “COVID-19 virus identified” truly died from COVID, can we honestly say that the lockdown was worth it? Before you say yes, think of all the unintended consequences: one year lost in the lives of our children, increased domestic and sexual abuses among women and children, loss of jobs and livelihood, increased anxiety, depression and suicides, increased national debt, and loss of trust in our government. Was it truly worth it?
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|↩1||Data for registered deaths for 2019 may be found here: https://psa.gov.ph/content/registered-deaths-philippines-2019|
|↩2||This code is defined by the ICD-10 as “COVID-19 is diagnosed clinically or epidemiologically but laboratory testing is inconclusive or not available, see https://icd.who.int/browse10/2019/en#/U07.2|
|↩3||This is defined by the ICD-10 as “COVID-19 has been confirmed by laboratory testing irrespective of severity of clinical signs or symptoms, read https://icd.who.int/browse10/2019/en#/U07.1“|
|↩4||Indeed, some hospitals knowingly misclassify cases in order to take advantage of the financial benefit allotted by the government for COVID-19 patients. Here are two examples, read https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1132175, and https://cebudailynews.inquirer.net/362782/philhealth-chong-hua-officials-charged-for-fraud-in-covid-claim|
|↩5||DOH data shows that COVID deaths for 2020 had a total of 10,622, see https://doh.gov.ph/2019-nCoV.|