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Jakarta Post

‘We didn’t know’: Bali authorities in the dark as COVID-19 patient dies on resort island

  • Ni Komang Erviani

    The Jakarta Post

Denpasar   /   Wed, March 11, 2020   /   08:16 pm
‘We didn’t know’: Bali authorities in the dark as COVID-19 patient dies on resort island A security guard stands in front of an isolation ward at Sanglah General Hospital in Denpasar, Bali, on March 3. (Antara/Fikri Yusuf)

A 53-year-old foreign woman holidaying in Bali became Indonesia's first COVID-19 fatality on Wednesday, but local authorities were only informed after her death that she had tested positive for the disease.

The Health Ministry had identified the woman as Case 25 in a press conference on Tuesday evening but neglected to inform Bali’s provincial administration.

"Today, early in the morning, at 2:45 a.m., a foreign national under observation at Sanglah Hospital died," the chairman of Bali’s COVID-19 task force, Dewa Made Indra, said at a press conference in Denpasar on Wednesday.

Dewa, who is also the secretary of the Bali administration, said the administration had not received any information on the patient’s test result until local officials called the Health Ministry themselves after the patient’s death.

"Because this patient died in the isolation room, under observation, we tried to get confirmation from Jakarta. We hadn’t received her laboratory test results yet,” he said. “[After calling the ministry,] we were told that the patient who died was Case 25, who was announced as COVID-19 positive yesterday."

Health Ministry Disease Control and Prevention Director General Achmad Yurianto explained that, once a patient’s test result came back, the ministry would inform the doctor in charge.

“Once the lab says the test is positive, the doctor is immediately informed and the doctor informs the patient,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. “Whether the doctor communicates [the results] to the regional administration is another matter.”

Yurianto previously said the ministry would stick with its policy of not announcing where confirmed cases were being treated or what country foreign patients were from.

Both the Health Ministry and the Bali administration declined to reveal the patient’s nationality, but British media have reported that she was from the United Kingdom. A British Foreign Office statement received by The Jakarta Post said the office was “supporting the family of a British woman who has died in Indonesia” but stopped short of confirming that the woman was Case 25.

Dewa said that Case 25 had a history of chronic illness, including diabetes, high blood pressure as well as pulmonary disease. 

He said that, despite not knowing that the patient had tested positive for COVID-19, she had received the same treatment a COVID-19 patient would have received. 

“[She was treated like a COVID-19] patient because her symptoms were similar to those of the disease and she was under observation,” he said.

Dewa said the patient had been cremated at around 12:30 p.m. local time in Mumbul, Badung.

"Because the patient was under observation for COVID-19, her body was handled according to the procedures for handling infectious diseases,” he added.

According to the Bali Health Agency, Case 25 arrived on the island on Feb. 29 and was admitted to a private hospital after complaining of fever on March 3. After her condition failed to improve, she was taken to Sanglah Hospital on March 9.

The Health Ministry said Case 25 was an imported case – meaning she is not believed to have contracted the virus in Indonesia – but has declined to say where she arrived from.

Dewa said his task force had traced the 21 people who had close contact with her and told them to go into self-imposed quarantine. The husband of the deceased, who accompanied her on the trip, is under observation.

So far, according the Bali Health Agency, 48 people have been observed for COVID-19 in the province. Thirty-eight have tested negative and been discharged, while nine others, all foreigners, are still under observation and waiting for their test results.

As of Wednesday, Indonesia has confirmed 34 COVID-19 cases in the country.