Challenges Ahead for COVID-19 Data Collection

Accurate and up-to-date data on COVID-19 is essential for understanding the pandemic and guiding policy decisions.
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  • N Pearce
  • Vandenbroucke JP
  • VanderWeele TJ
  • Greenland S
Accurate statistics on COVID-19 are essential for policy guidance and decisions.

Several countries openly publish consistent and comprehensive daily updates of COVID-19 cases by age and sex, deaths, hospitalizations and, more recently, vaccinations, while other countries are still struggling to provide detailed and harmonized data.

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Data Resource Profile: COVerAGE-DB: A global demographic database of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

The pandemic is currently producing an extremely high incidence of cases due to the Omicron variant, particularly in Europe. On January 11, 2022, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA, predicted that over 50% of the European population will be infected with Omicron in the next 6-8 weeks.
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WHO
WHO: 50% of the population in Europe could be infected with Covid in the next 2 months.

Despite these predictions, some European governments are considering treating COVID-19 as an endemic disease. This change would put in place an epidemiological surveillance system similar to those used for sentinel influenza-like illnesses in primary care, inducing a significant loss of follow-up in the collection of data for the usual daily indicators (for example, incident cases, hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions, and deaths) and contact tracing. Additionally, breaking key time trends of current indicators would make it difficult to assess future health policy interventions, analyze immunization procedures, and compare outcomes across countries and over time.

It is well established that the post-COV-19 condition, known as long COVID, occurs in people infected with SARS-CoV-2. Long COVID usually occurs 3 months after the onset of COVID-19, with symptoms lasting at least 2 months that cannot be explained by another diagnosis.
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  • Rajan S
  • Khunti K
  • Alwan N.
  • et al.
In the wake of the pandemic: preparing for the long COVID.

A significant number of people with COVID-19 have a long duration of COVID. The WHO estimates that around 20% of people with COVID-19 have persistent symptoms 4-5 weeks after testing positive, and 10% have symptoms after 12 weeks.

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  • Rajan S
  • Khunti K
  • Alwan N.
  • et al.
In the wake of the pandemic: preparing for the long COVID.

However, most studies focus on symptomatology, and long-COVID surveillance is not yet systematic in European countries. Therefore, detailed demographic data are needed to understand the prevalence and mechanisms of long-COVID in different population groups, patient needs for health and social services, and economic consequences.

It is crucial to continue collecting daily data on current morbidity, mortality and vaccination indicators during the following stages of the pandemic, because treating COVID-19 as an endemic disease does not make it harmless.
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COVID-19: endemic does not mean harmless.

Data on COVID-19 should also be linked to national health and social care registries to monitor the effect of current and potential new variants and the effect of long COVID on the population.

We declare no competing interests.

The references

  1. 1.
    • N Pearce
    • Vandenbroucke JP
    • VanderWeele TJ
    • Greenland S

    Accurate statistics on COVID-19 are essential for policy guidance and decisions.

    Am J Public Health. 2020; 110: 949-951

  2. 2.

    Data Resource Profile: COVerAGE-DB: A global demographic database of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

    Int J Epidemiol. 2021; 50 (): 390

  3. 3.

    WHO: 50% of the population in Europe could be infected with Covid in the next 2 months.

  4. 4.
    • Rajan S
    • Khunti K
    • Alwan N.
    • et al.

    In the wake of the pandemic: preparing for the long COVID.

  5. 5.

    COVID-19: endemic does not mean harmless.

    Nature. 2022; 601: 485

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