Sic!: Pandemic and Statistics

Moldova hits new records in a row by the number of new cases of COVID-19 and associated deaths and this shows the measures taken by the authorities do  not really work. Figures help to understand how serious the situation is and how well the authorities cope and what should be done further. But not all the figures are equal. In the fourth episode of the podcast “This is how things stand” produced by the sic! team, Eugen Muravschi and Andrei Lutenco discussed how detailed the statistical picture of the novel coronavirus in Moldova is and how broader and more transparent data could  help fight the pandemic.

The podcast says the daily and weekly reports published by the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Agency are the main, if not the only sources from which the people can inform themselves about the pandemic developments in Moldova. One of the invitees of the podcast, sociologist and statistician Vasile Cantarji (CBS Research) attentively follows these reports. Among the most important indicators is the number of primary tests done and of new cases detected. These can help determine the positive test rates that remain excessively high. Cantarji says this fact shows we lag behind in testing.

Besides information accessible to the public, Ștefan Gheorghiță, division head at the National Public Health Agency, said the authorities are collecting data through the agency of epidemiological surveys that document each case apart. These data include the symptoms manifested by the infected person and the persons with whom this had been in contact, among others.

Nicu Calcea, a data journalist at the British magazine New Statesman, is disappointed with the fact that the Moldovan authorities publish few data about the pandemic. In the UK, the data available to the public and journalists are much more varied, being disaggregated to the level of a quarter in a given city. There are also statistics by professions and this shows that not only the health workers, but also the so-called “essential workers” are among the most exposed ones. These are persons who are in direct contact with clients and who cannot work from home, such as receptionists, sellers, waiters, taxi drivers. The publication of such data will be useful in Moldova too and can persuade, for example, cab drivers to more often wear a mask.

Vasile Cantarji noted the statistics available in Moldova are primarily descriptive and do not analyze the situation. For instance, statistics do not explain the impact of the taken measures or why we experience a new wave. We also do not know exactly why we have explosions in cases in Chisinau and do not see similar situations in regions with comparable population density.

The full podcast can be listened to online. The project is financed with a grant provided by Soros Foundation Moldova from the reserve fund “Phase II COVID-19 Response” to assist Moldova in containing the pandemic.

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