Since the beginning of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Lebanese authorities have used several methods to share information about the public health situation in Lebanon.
While each method is helpful in its own way, having more than one official source of information on this matter has certainly not been problem-free.
Lebanon’s epidemiological developments are chiefly provided by the Health Ministry on a daily basis through daily reports.
These reports include information such as the number of new infections, fatalities, and recoveries registered per 24 hours, as well as an overview of the outbreak, including the total number of confirmed infections, fatalities, recoveries, and related data.
The same information is updated on a daily basis on the dedicated online platform for tracking COVID-19 developments in Lebanon, on the Information Ministry’s official website.
The primary advantage of this website is that it digitizes the Health Ministry’s report, which comes in a form of a static image.
Similarly, the IMPACT platform, which provides official and comprehensive data on a variety of topics that concern the Lebanese public, also has detailed information presented in an interactive interface about COVID-19 developments in Lebanon.
The961 has been following these developments since the first infection was confirmed in Lebanon back in February 2020.
And, throughout this process, which involves updating our own COVID-19 live tracker and publishing daily reports on the outbreak, we have noted some issues with the official data on several occasions.
To give a recent example, at the time of writing (April 3rd), the Information Ministry’s COVID-19 live tracker is still showing data from April 1st, including an outdated total number of infections (471,962, whereas the correct number is 474,925 as per the Health Ministry’s latest report).
It’s noteworthy that this is not the first time the page has been left unupdated. With that said, this is not the only notable flaw in the availability and consistency of official COVID-19 data in Lebanon.
On February 9th, 2021, to give another example, the Health Ministry’s daily report on the outbreak indicated that 2,879 new COVID-19 infections had been recorded within the previous 24 hours.
However, when the Information Ministry’s tracking page was updated shortly afterward, it displayed a higher number: 2,886.
The tracker also incorrectly had the total number of infections at 324,866 when it was 324,859 on the Health Ministry’s report.
The numbers of local infections and infections among inbound travelers at Beirut Airport were also different on the tracker than they were in the report.
What happened, in that case, was that either the Information Ministry’s webpage miscopied the data, which seems to be the more likely scenario, or that the Health Ministry had the numbers wrong in its report and corrected them later on the live tracker.
Either way, this mistake created a fissure, if a temporary one, in the official data on COVID-19 in Lebanon. One more example can be taken from IMPACT.
The IMPACT online platform is supposed to be a reliable repository of official data that is regularly updated.
However, taking a quick look at its COVID-19 section – which uses data provided by the Health Ministry and Lebanese municipalities – and comparing its figures with those of the Health Ministry reveals a major gap in the data.
For instance, at the time of writing, the IMPACT COVID-19 Tracking data section says that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases currently stands at 397,052, which is more than 77,000 cases short of the most recent number declared by the Health Ministry (474,925).
It’s important to note, as the platform itself does, that IMPACT’s COVID-19 data is not updated in real time and that the “last 48-hour updates might not be included.”
However, as the mentioned figures show, the gap between the Health Ministry’s data and the data on IMPACT is much wider than 48 hours, which raises a question about the utility of the platform in this regard.
Whether these inconsistencies were caused by human mistakes, negligence, or technical error, they pose the following question: If the authorities are, for whatever reason, unable to maintain and consistently update the different sources of data on the same subject that they’ve made available to the public, why not focus on one source instead?
In order to avoid the risk of causing confusion with mistakes like the above, perhaps having the Health Ministry’s daily epidemiological report as the only official source of data on the COVID-19 situation would be a good move at this stage.
We have a dedicated coronavirus section where you can find the latest news/updates about the pandemic in Lebanon, inform yourself with WHO-verified resources, and track the number of cases in Lebanon in real-time. Click here.