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Data mismatch due to coordination problems, won't happen again: ICMR

New Delhi: After serious discrepancies popped up between the COVID-19 numbers being posted by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Health Ministry on March 25, ICMR officials have now said that such errors were being caused due to coordination problems between the different laboratories testing for the Coronavirus across the country, all of which are supposed to send all their samples to the ICMR for consolidation.

A senior ICMR Scientist said that there were instances where laboratories from different testing centres were sending their data directly to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare through the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), "as a result of which there was a discrepancy and we were reporting less number of positive cases", he said, wishing not to be named.

On March 25, the Health Ministry had said the total number of COVID-19 cases in India had touched 606 as of 6 pm. However, in a bulletin released hours after the Ministry's announcement, ICMR had said that the total number of positive cases in India was 581. This discrepancy continued Friday as well, with ICMR reporting a total of 691 positive cases and the Health Ministry posting a total of 724 positive cases.

Interestingly, according to the testing guidelines and procedures issued by the ICMR, all samples being tested for SARS-CoV-2 must be sent to the ICMR-NIV lab in Pune for consolidation, record-keeping and further studies and the ICMR is governed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The data mismatch was also addressed by the Health Ministry on Wednesday when they had asked ICMR to stop putting out bulletins on the total number of positive cases, following which ICMR had put out no bulletins for March 26. The Ministry had clarified that it would be best to disseminate the data from the single platform operated by it. However, it is important to note that the Ministry is not releasing testing numbers and ICMR is the only agency that is posting testing numbers. On Friday morning, ICMR started putting out bulletins again with testing numbers.

An ICMR spokesperson told Millennium Post that such errors were due to coordination problems between certain labs in the country, the NCDC and the ICMR. "We have met with officials of the NCDC and other agencies concerned regarding these discrepancies and such errors will not be seen again," he said.

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