Thursday 17 June 2021

Government does not provide open data on COVID-19 vital for making decisions

The accumulated data of cases (which are those provided by the Ministry of Health) are not sufficient to make projections; Health Minister alleging that it is information that is difficult to understand.

(QCOSTARICA) Why are the mathematical models and statistical data used by the Ministry of Health during the COVID-19 pandemic important? What has been repeatedly requested are the mathematical models used to generate the projections, not people data or patient details. But why is this important?

Its relevance lies in the fact that projections, hypotheses and evaluations of sanitary and commercial measures can be made from these data to mitigate the effects of Sars-CoV-2 on both health and the economy.

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Tomás De Camino Beck, Ph.D. in Mathematical Biology, spoke with and explained that it is vital to obtain more detailed data, without revealing the anonymity of those infected with the new coronavirus, in order to create multiple projection models of the evolution of the disease, based on the certainty of scientific projections and not on circumstantial aspects or figures.

De Camino indicated that the accumulated data of cases (which are those provided by the Ministry of Health) are not sufficient to make the projections, in fact, the experiences of other countries cannot be extrapolated to ours, since each nation has migration conditions, contact dynamics and genetic aspects of the population that must be valued when making decisions.

For example, De Camino assured that the aggregated data – such as the report of new cases per day – contribute almost nothing for mathematical purposes and that, in fact, the detail of the number of tests carried out, geographical area and the number of times that a person was submitted to a diagnostic test is required to have scientific criteria that allow establishing local or national restrictions.

As for age, the ideal would be to establish ranges or specify that of each person who was or is infected. And the data can be anonymized to prevent people from knowing the specific location of each person, “the name of each person is disregarded and that allows us to anonymize and be able to work the projections,” added the expert.

Reducing uncertainty

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The opening of the information in the hands of the Ministry of Health (which Minister Daniel Salas declined to disclose on Monday, alleging that it is information that is difficult to understand) would allow this mathematical and statistical modeling to which the expert refers, who clarifies that the country has the human talent in mathematics, statistics, and computing to do these analyzes, despite Salas’ statements.

It is about reducing uncertainty. “The opening of data allows citizens to verify and use their intellectual, technical, and academic capacities to contribute to the understanding of a pandemic that has a high level of uncertainty. (…) Possible scenarios are generated, and those scenarios are the ones that they are presented to different groups, organizations, chambers, associations (…) Any commercial or non-commercial activity must be able to have a sense of planning, both in the worst case and in the best case.

“While I am waiting day by day to see what happens, what they are going to do tomorrow, you cannot reach a critical point where only the sectors that have accumulated reserve capital can survive,” he said.

De Camino has a hypothesis about vehicle restriction and ensures that “it can be inferred that vehicle restriction has zero impact” in economically depressed areas.

Health Minister Daniel Salas said Monday that “there are many groups that are modeling and possible projections. We, based on the network model, which is the one that has been most adjusted to the behavior of Costa Rica, chose the Center for Research in Pure and Applied Mathematics (Centro de Investigación en Matemática Pura y Aplicada – CIMPA), they have been our official team, the other projections is being done by other people … we are not saying that they are not valid”

“Anyone can take the network model, which is not a secret model, it is a model that is available, and make their own conclusions … In order to understand this model, and to do it properly, a level of expertise is required for a long time,” concluded the Minister.

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De Camino said that it should not be assumed that anyone other than CIMPA can understand the models.

Tomás de Camino Beck, Ph.D. in Mathematical Biology, University of Alberta, Canada, M.Sc. in Computer Science from the Technological Institute of Costa Rica and B.Sc. in Biological Sciences from the University of Costa Rica, has Post-doctorates in mathematics from the University of Alberta, and mathematical models of biological invasion control at Penn State University, USA. He has published articles in prestigious magazines and written several book chapters.

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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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