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Jakarta Post

Another denial, another death: West Java finds out about fatal COVID-19 case on social media

  • Arya Dipa

    The Jakarta Post

Bandung   /   Tue, March 17, 2020   /   01:55 pm
Another denial, another death: West Java finds out about fatal COVID-19 case on social media West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil (second from right) monitors information related to the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus at a command center in Bandung, West Java, on March 10. (JP/Arya Dipa)

The West Java Health Agency said it only discovered later that a patient who died while being treated in a hospital in Cianjur had tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Agency head Berli Hamdani Gelung Sakti said the patient, who was identified as a 50-year-old male employee of a state-owned enterprise, was treated at Dr. Hafiz General Hospital in Cianjur on March 1 after showing COVID-19 symptoms. He died two days later in the hospital. 

Berli explained that the patient was admitted to the Cianjur hospital after being treated at Mitra Keluarga Hospital in West Bekasi from Feb. 22 to 26. His health had kept deteriorating and he died before he could be transferred to Hasan Sadikin Hospital, a referral hospital for the disease, in Bandung. 

At that time, the government’s spokesperson for the COVID-19 outbreak, Achmad Yurianto, denied the patient died from the disease. 

However, a widely circulated picture on social media revealed that the late patient had actually tested positive for the virus.

“We later confirmed it [again] to the central government and the result is indeed positive,” Berli said on Monday. He added that the patient had visited his relatives in Cianjur after he was discharged from Mitra Keluarga Hospital. 

Berli said he could not explain the conflicting information on the patient since the testing was conducted by officials from the Health Ministry. The previous tests showed that the patient was negative for COVID-19.

“The hospital workers in Cianjur only observed the process,” Berli said.

The Cianjur case was the latest evidence of the government’s sluggish testing mechanism that had resulted in uninformed health workers and local officials handling a COVID-19-positive case. In Denpasar, Bali, a 53-year-old woman, known as Case 25, who became the first fatality from the disease in the country, was treated at hospital without officials being told her health condition. Only after her death was announced were local officials informed about the patient’s status.   

Read also: Bali authorities in the dark as COVID-19 patient dies on resort island 

Berli said he only received information from Yurianto.

“The [Cianjur] hospital workers said they [ministry officers] twice took samples from the patient when he was still using breathing support,” Berli added. 

Separately, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said he referred to the test results from the Health Ministry’s Health Research and Development Agency upon announcing the patient’s COVID-19 status. 

“The government said he had tested negative at that time, but the result became positive because Mr. Yurianto said the test needs to be conducted twice. Patients could be exposed to the virus even when they were already declared healthy. That was the explanation they gave me,” Ridwan said. 

The patient’s wife and children also tested positive for the disease.  

“The patient’s wife and children tested positive, while he underwent examination twice. It was negative at first and turned positive after the second test,” Ridwan said. (dpk)