The Limited and Contradictory Statistics of COVID-19 Deaths

News | Economics and Social Policy | Analysis 28 December 2021

The first case of coronavirus in Georgia was recorded on February 26, 2020.Since December 27, 2021, a total of 924,066 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported, with 13,583 patients who have died.


On December 26, 2021, the Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs, Ekaterine Tikaradze, presented a report on the latest 3-year activities of the Ministry.During the presentation, along with other topics, Tikaradze made an announcement that one of the most important challenges in the clinics is infection control, as in many cases the cause of lethality is not Covid itself, but other nosocomial infections. Tikaradze noted that the Ministry works with clinics where the lethality indicator is high, although the reasons for this high lethality were not disclosed. According to the Minister, there are clinics where the lethality rate is in the range of 2-3%, and there are clinics where the lethality rate is 15%.


The Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) has been studying Covid-19-induced mortality rates for several months.However, the Ministry of Health significantly impedes the availability of data with a number of indicators. Among them, the Ministry did not provide IDFI with:


  • The names of the clinics where the deceased patients were receiving treated;
  • The number of deaths of patients who were transferred to an artificial ventilation devices;
  • Among the deceased, what number had confirmed re-infection cases with Covid;
  • How many of the deceased were vaccinated with a single dose of the vaccine and how many were fully vaccinated (indicating the corresponding vaccine);
  • The number of people who died of coronavirus (by sex and age group) who were confirmed to have coronavirus during treatment at a medical facility and were subsequently transferred to a Covid clinic or a specialized unit in the same clinic.



One of IDFI's requests concerned the data on the stayof the deceased at Covid-19 clinics and the period from infection to death, which was not publicly available and was made public by the Ministry upon request. The analysis below, however, also calls into question the reliability of this data.



Contradictory Data Provided by the Ministry


On October 26, 2021, the Ministry of Health provided IDFI with data on the stay of 9,306 people who died of COVID-19 at a clinic and on the period from infection to death.According to the statistics provided, out of 9,306 deaths, 2,863 cases had a longer hospital stay than the duration of the period from infection to death.Consequently, the data showed that in the cases if approximately 30% of the persons who passed away duetoCovid, the viral infectionwas confirmed during treatment at a clinic.The information provided suggested that, on the one hand, such data may have been related to the problem of virus confirmation at the initial stage of treatment, and, on the other hand, to cases of infection with Covid of patients at a medical facility for other reasons, at the location.


In order to clarify these assumptions, IDFI addressed to the Ministry of Health on November 19, 2021, with a request for additional information.Specifically, the Ministry was asked to provide up-to-date data as of November 19 and to explain what was considered the patient's infection date and what the hospital stay period entailed for statistical purposes.In addition, they were asked to provide information on cases where Covid was confirmed during treatment in medical institutions(including those with lethal outcomes) processed by the Ministry.


On December 22, 2021, late by approximately one month, the Ministry provided IDFI with updated statistics on the length of stay of 11,679 people who died of COVID-19 at a clinic and the period from infection to death.At the same time, the Ministry refrained from providing further explanations and information about confirmed cases during treatment at a medical facility.It is noteworthy that the results of the updated data provided by the Ministry are significantly different from the trends existing as of October 26, 2021.Additionally, inaccuracies of statistical data were revealed through the comparisonofseparateinstances of quantitative data.For example, according to data analysis provided on December 22, 2021, out of 11,679 deaths, only 489 (4%) involved hospital stays that were longer than the period from infection to death, while according to the information provided on 26 October, 2021, of the 9,306 deaths reported, 2,863 (31%) similar cases had already been recorded. Accordingly, in the updated data provided by the Ministry, the period of stay or infection in the clinic of at least 2379 deceased persons had been corrected.


According to the information provided by the letter of December 22, similar cases, where the period of hospital stay exceeded the period from infection to death, varied from 0% to 5% by age group, while according to the letter of October 26, these percentages were 24% to 53%.







Note: The colored cells represent the cases where, according to the information provided on December 22, in the age group of 70-80 years, the period from infection to death exceeds the period of stay at the clinic.





Note: The colored cells represent the cases where, according to the information provided on October 26, in the age group of 70-80 years, the period from infection to death exceeds the period of stay at the clinic.


Given the fact that two significantly different datasets were provided by the Ministry at different times without proper explanation, it is impossible to estimate the true extent of the internal spread of the coronavirus in medical facilities. The importance of the accuracy of these datasets is further highlighted by the fact that the Minister of Health, when presenting the annual report of the Ministry, named ineffective control of the spread of various infections by clinics as one of the main factors in the high mortality rate.



According to the corrected data provided by the Ministry of Health on December 22, 2022, the percentage distribution of both the delay from infection to death as well as the percentage of stays at the clinics of the deceased had also changed significantly.For example, less than 5 days after an infection was confirmed, the proportion of deaths decreased from 18.6% to 11.3%, and the duration of stay in clinics that was less than 5 days before death occurred increased from 14.2% to 19.2%.




Analysis of statistical data on coronavirus deaths shows that complete and consistent access to similar data broken down in terms of different indicators is a significant problemin the country.For instance, information such as patient mortality statistics broken down by medical facility, statistics of patients (including deaths) infected during medical treatment, number of deceased patients who had been transferred to artificial ventilation, how many of the deceased had a recurrence of Covid infection, and so on.Additionally, the disclosure of contradictory data to interested parties without proper explanation significantly undermines the degree of public confidence in the data produced by the Ministry.


IDFI calls on the Ministry of Health of Georgia, taking into account the high public interest, to ensure the publicity of the statistical data of the deaths related to Covid-19, broken down by indicators discussed in this article. Additionally, it should provide the public with a detailed explanation of the reasons for conflicting data from infection to death and days spent in a clinic, and proactively ensure that it is accurate and accessible.




The study was prepared within the grant for Good Governance for Georgia (3G) project from the global philanthropic organization, Luminate. The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) is responsible for the content of this analysis. Views expressed in therein do not reflect the position of Luminate.


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