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Jakarta Post

Majority of Indonesians want transparency about COVID-19 patients

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, March 28, 2020   /   04:45 pm
Majority of Indonesians want transparency about COVID-19 patients A quarantine official examines one of the 181 Indonesian citizens from Johor Bahru, Malaysia, who arrived at the Batam Center International Ferry Harbor on March 20 after Malaysia imposed a lockdown two days before. (JP/Fadli)

Most Indonesians believe that some information regarding COVID-19 positive patients should be available to the public to be used for contact tracing, as reflected by a recent survey.

The survey was conducted between March 20 and 21 by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), in collaboration with the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and other institutions, to find out the public perception of information transparency in regard to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The report showed that 97 percent of 15,101 respondents agreed that the recent travel history of COVID-19 positive patients should be made available to the public. Meanwhile, 65.8 percent of survey respondents supported transparency regarding the detailed address of each patient.

Respondents were citizens aged 21 to 40 years old selected randomly, 65 percent were women.

“Respondents from both Java and other islands consider it important to publish the last 14 days travel history of COVID-19 patients,” University of Indonesia School of Psychology crisis and disaster researcher Dicky Pelupessy said during an online press briefing on Friday.

Read also: COVID 19: Public fend for themselves amid scarcity of information from government

Such information would help people to be more cautious and impose self-quarantine if they happen to have had direct contact with a confirmed positive patient, he went on to say.

Around 61 percent of respondents agreed that authorities should announce the patients’ names, although they later said it was unnecessary to publish such information.

In addition, 64 percent of respondents agreed that the patients’ addresses should be disclosed, but that the information should be limited to the name of the district in which they lived. Furthermore, only 60.8 percent of respondents said the subdistrict where the patients lived should also be announced.

“People would be more cautious if they found out that someone in their neighborhood was infected with COVID-19,” Dicky said.

Based on the survey, researchers recommended that authorities make the home addresses of COVID-19 patients available to the public, but only up to the neighborhood unit (RT) level.

"The government also needs to guarantee the publication of personal information under a clear legal mechanism. Anyone misusing such information could be charged under regulations," LIPI population researcher Rusli Cahyadi said.

“Such recommendation is not against the law. In fact, it will support other regulations regarding the imposed quarantine policy.”

Read also: Coronavirus spreading fast but stigma is more dangerous: WHO

Prior to the survey, Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) chairman Daeng Mohammad Faqih urged the government to reveal COVID-19 positive patients’ identity in order to help medical workers carry out contact tracing. Such disclosure would also help the government estimate how widespread the disease is, he added.

The Central Information Commission (KIP) also urged the government and its COVID-19 rapid response team to proactively deliver correct and updated information regarding the disease. However, the commission warned that patients’ personal information should only be published with their consent.

The country’s first two confirmed COVID-19 cases were hit by stigma after their personal details – initials, age and home address – were disbursed on social media from unclear sources, not long after the government broke the news on the cases.

The number of COVID-19 positive cases in the country reached 1,000 on Friday, with 1,046 cases confirmed and 87 fatalities. (trn)