Background: When a new pathogen emerges, consistent case reporting is critical for public health surveillance. Tracking cases geographically and over time is key for understanding the spread of an infectious disease and effectively designing interventions to contain and mitigate an epidemic. In this paper we describe the reporting systems on COVID-19 in Southeast Asia during the first wave in 2020, and highlight the impact of specific reporting methods.
Methods: We reviewed key epidemiological variables from various sources including a regionally comprehensive dataset, national trackers, dashboards, and case bulletins for 11 countries during the first wave of the epidemic in Southeast Asia. We recorded timelines of shifts in epidemiological reporting systems and described the differences in how epidemiological data are reported across countries and timepoints.
Results: Our findings suggest that countries in Southeast Asia generally reported precise and detailed epidemiological data during the first wave of the pandemic. Changes in reporting rarely occurred for demographic data, while reporting shifts for geographic and temporal data were frequent. Most countries provided COVID-19 individual-level data daily using HTML and PDF, necessitating scraping and extraction before data could be used in analyses.
Conclusion: Our study highlights the importance of more nuanced analyses of COVID-19 epidemiological data within and across countries because of the frequent shifts in reporting. As governments continue to respond to impacts on health and the economy, data sharing also needs to be prioritised given its foundational role in policymaking, and in the implementation and evaluation of interventions.
Amit, A. M. L., Pepito, V. C. F., Gutierrez, B., & Rawson, T. (2021). Data sharing in Southeast Asia during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Public Health, 9. https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpubh.2021.662842
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