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Jakarta Post

‘It’s only a model’: Health Ministry dismisses Harvard study on potential coronavirus spread in Indonesia

  • Apriza Pinandita

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, February 11, 2020   /   10:43 am
‘It’s only a model’: Health Ministry dismisses Harvard study on potential coronavirus spread in Indonesia Medical staff from Zainal Abidin General Hospital (RSUZA) prepare a special isolation room for patients infected with the coronavirus in Banda Aceh, Aceh, on Jan. 27. The Ministry of Health (Kemenkes) has prepared 100 hospitals for treatment if patients are found to have contracted the coronavirus. (Antara/Irwansyah Putra)

The Health Ministry has dismissed a study conducted by researchers from Harvard University that found the country should have already confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.

A study by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggested that Indonesia should have confirmed cases of the viral outbreak already, considering the high air-travel volume from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak in China, to the country.

The ministry’s research and development agency head Siswanto said the study was based only on mathematical calculations to predict the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Basically, the study is only a mathematical model to predict the spread of the virus with independent variables based on the volume of international travelers,” he told journalists on Monday.

Read also: Indonesia should have confirmed coronavirus cases by now: Study

He added that, to date, there were not any patients who tested positive for the coronavirus, based on the results of examinations in his office’s laboratory. The ministry has examined 59 out of 62 specimens from people suspected of being infected with 2019-nCoV. All 59 specimens have tested negative.

“We have examined them properly. It [the study] is only a prediction,” Siswanto said. “We should instead be grateful as we have no cases despite the prediction of at least six confirmed cases.”

The ministry’s disease control and environmental health director general, Anung Sugihantono, said the ministry had received 62 specimens from 28 hospitals in 16 provinces. Three of the specimens were still under examination.

The Harvard study stated that Indonesia's zero confirmed cases "may suggest the potential for undetected cases in these locations given the expected connection before travel control measures were implemented”. With an average daily number of passengers of about 100 people, the model showed that Indonesia should have confirmed one to 10 cases of the novel coronavirus infection.

Researchers also found that Cambodia and Thailand had confirmed cases lower than the model predicted.

An epidemiologist with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Marc Lipsitch, said in the study – posted on the pre-print server medRxiv – that the virus had likely reached Indonesia. “Undetected cases in any country will potentially seed epidemics in those countries.”

As of Tuesday, a total of 1,011 people had died from the disease and more than 42,000 others had tested positive for the virus across the globe, as reported by AFP. (syk)