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Jakarta Post

Govt fails to confirm at least five minors among COVID-19 fatalities

  • Alya Nurbaiti and Asip Hasani

    The Jakarta Post

The Jakarta Post/Jakarta/Surabaya   /   Thu, April 2, 2020   /   03:28 pm
 Govt fails to confirm at least five minors among COVID-19 fatalities A young girl looks at a screen displaying information on the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in Palu, Central Sulawesi, on March 28. 'The Jakarta Post' has gathered data that indicates at least five of the deaths of COVID-19 patients and suspect cases were minors but the government has not yet acknowledged the issue. (Antara/Mohamad Hamzah)

In the month since the first COVID-19 case was identified in Indonesia, the country has recorded at least five minors among the deaths of people infected with or suspected of being infected with COVID-19.

The government’s official data, however, has so far not acknowledged that any deaths among minors have occurred. The information The Jakarta Post has obtained is either from leaked data or from regional administrations that has not been confirmed by the central government.

The data is scattered and not all of it has complete information regarding whether the children were healthy prior to infection or had other underlying conditions.

Children’s rights organizations have called on the government to make public the ages of COVID-19 patients and pay more attention to the issue because COVID-19 is generally not supposed to kill healthy children. They also insist that the government should have made efforts to protect vulnerable children who had underlying conditions.

Pay more attention to children

University of Indonesia (UI) epidemiologist Tri Yunis Miko Wahyono said that the death of a minor because of COVID-19 without any comorbidity was highly unusual. Comorbidity is a medical condition that co-occurs with another.

“If a minor dies of COVID-19 without a comorbidity factor, it’s most likely because of poor handling. For example, if they’re not adequately treated during the early stages of the disease during which they only show mild symptoms,” he told the Post on Wednesday.

Director of Save the Children Indonesia Tata Sudrajat said the government must pay more attention to minors, especially minors who have a history of comorbidity.

“It is commonly known that the elderly with underlying illnesses are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Children with illnesses, however, have not been a concern,” he told the Post on Wednesday.

To address the matter, Tata said, the government must first and foremost provide data showing the age, gender and history of comorbidity of all COVID-19 patients and suspected cases.

“Such data will allow us to identify the age group and better prepare preventive and handling methods,” he said.

Child Protection Commission (KPAI) chair Susanto regretted the death of minors from COVID-19, saying that all stakeholders must ensure that children are protected from coronavirus infection.

He said that physical distancing measures must be seriously enforced. Even if schools have been suspended, parents must ensure their children stay at home and not play outside.

Five known deaths

Leaked data from the Health Ministry, obtained by the Post on Monday, reported that a 17-year-old male in West Java -- recorded as Case 190 -- died on March 18, making him the first fatality among people under 18 years in Indonesia.

An 11-year-old girl who died in Pamekasan on Madura Island, East Java, earlier this month has since been confirmed as having tested positive for the disease, Pamekasan authorities stated on March 31.

The girl died on March 20, only a day after she was admitted to hospital. Her second test result dated March 29 came back positive for COVID-19.

The girl, however, also reportedly suffered from dengue fever. East Java COVID-19 task force curative team head Joni Wahyuhadi said the fatality was most likely caused by a combination of dengue fever and COVID-19.

“Based on the report sent to us, the patient went through stage four of dengue hemorrhagic fever. She suffered dengue shock syndrome,” Joni told the Post on Wednesday, adding that the girl had been among the 1 percent of dengue fever patients who fell into dengue shock syndrome.

Besides the confirmed cases, authorities also report at least three deaths of minors among suspected COVID-19 cases, one of whom was a baby.

Last week, the COVID-19 spokesperson in Cianjur, West Java, Yusman Faisal told that a “teenage girl” who was a patient under surveillance died on March 25 in the former athletes village currently being used as a hospital for those with mild symptoms in Kemayoran Jakarta.

The West Kalimantan administration also reported on Tuesday the death of a 14-year-old in Kubu Raya regency, West Kalimantan. The child was suspected of having COVID-19.

West Java Health Agency head Berli Hamdani told the Post on Wednesday that the province had recorded the deaths of two minors among suspected COVID-19 cases.

“Yes, we recorded the deaths of a teenager and a baby,” he said, without elaborating further.

It was not clear whether the teenager he mentioned was the girl from Cianjur or another case.

He said the agency could not confirm whether they had died as a result of COVID-19 because like “many other deaths, there was a comorbidity factor”.

“It’s also difficult to confirm as it requires an autopsy procedure to do so and this involves family permission, among other things,” he added.

The global death rate among the age group of 10-19 years as of Tuesday was 0.2 percent, as opposed to 14.8 percent in people 80 years and older, according to Worldometer.

Among the 685 cases provided in the leaked data, 11 patients were in the age group of 1-19 years, including the 17-year-old who died.

The leaked data did not include the 11-year-old girl who died in Pamekasan.

Arya Dipa contributed to this story from Bandung