Provinces must release Covid-19 data so testing strategies can be assessed
There seems to be a desire in some provinces to withhold data from the public for no reason at all, the DA says
The DA is putting pressure on provincial health departments to release more details about their Covid-19 testing and confirmed cases, saying credible and consistent data is vital for guiding interventions.
At present, Gauteng and the Western Cape are releasing daily figures for their testing numbers, confirmed cases and fatalities, but the others are not.
The DA’s health spokesperson, Siviwe Gwarube, said on Monday that the party planned to submit Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) applications to provincial health departments in a bid to compel them to release detailed Covid-19 statistics.
The national health department requires provincial health departments to submit detailed Covid-19 data to it every day, and it should be made public as it is an important tool for holding the government to account, said Gwarube.
“There seems to be a desire in some provinces to withhold data from the public for no reason at all. As an example of this absurdity, the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government is claiming that these statistics are embargoed,” she said.
“Information about a global pandemic that is wreaking havoc in our country should never be considered classified. That goes against section 32(1)(a) of the constitution, which determines that everyone has a right of access to any information held by the state,” she said.
“I have raised the issue of uniformity of data with the minister of health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, so that we can understand how many tests are conducted per province and what proportion of the national testing figures does this represent. I have also made the case for transparency with regards to provincial testing strategies so that we can be assured that each province is testing enough people in relation to their population,” she said.
The DA-led Western Cape had been transparent with its testing data and strategy, unlike the Eastern Cape which failed to disclose its figures and had effectively hidden its low testing rate from public scrutiny, she said.
The health department's acting director-general Anban Pillay said it requested epidemiological data from provinces on a regular basis, but was not determining what they made public. “Provinces are at liberty to share information they need to with stakeholders,” he said.