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Jakarta Post

East Java governor slams Surabaya for ‘late’ response to Sampoerna COVID-19 cluster

  • Asip Hasani

    The Jakarta Post

Surabaya   /   Mon, May 4, 2020   /   05:20 pm
East Java governor slams Surabaya for ‘late’ response to Sampoerna COVID-19 cluster East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa (third left) watches masks be produced during a suprise inspection at PT Jayamas Medica in Karangwinongan village, Jombang regency, East Java, on Wednesday March 18. (Antara/Syaiful Arif)

East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa has criticized the Surabaya city administration’s delayed response to a cluster of COVID-19 infections at one of tobacco giant PT HM Sampoerna’s factories in the city. 

“The response to the case was too late. They [Sampoerna] reported the case on April 14 to the Surabaya Health Agency. Perhaps the report lacked details. If [the report was] detailed there should have been a quick response," she told reporters on Friday. 

Khofifah said the provincial COVID-19 task force was only made aware of the case on April 28 when dozens of Sampoerna workers were confirmed to have contracted the virus. 

Sampoerna's Rungkut 2 factory in Rungkut district has been identified as a new cluster of COVID-19 cases in Surabaya after the test results of two workers came back positive for COVID-19 several days after their deaths on April 14. 

The Surabaya COVID-19 task force has since scrambled to trace those who may have had direct contact with the two workers at the factory, which has at least 500 employees. 

On April 29, the task force took blood samples from 323 workers for rapid testing with 91 of them returning reactive. 

The 91 workers have since undergone polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, with 63 testing positive. 

East Java COVID-19 task force member Joni Wahyuhadi said that another 165 workers who might have been in direct contact with the two deceased workers had undergone PCR tests earlier but the results had not yet been disclosed. 

Meanwhile, PT HM Sampoerna Tbk director Elvira Lianita said the company had put its cigarette products produced at the Rungkut 2 factory in a five-day quarantine before distributing them to consumers to ensure they were free from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Read also: Sampoerna factory closes after two COVID-19 deaths, authorities rush to trace contacts

"We also quarantine our products for five days before they are distributed to our consumers," she said on Thursday in a written statement obtained by The Jakarta Post

She said that the five-day quarantine was longer than the quarantine period suggested by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the two organizations, the SARS-CoV-2 virus can survive for 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel surfaces, less than four hours on copper surfaces, and less than 24 hours on cardboard surfaces, she said. 

Elvira said the Rungkut 2 factory had been closed since April 27.

The Sampoerna COVID-19 transmission cluster, the 30th cluster detected in Surabaya, will likely cause a spike in confirmed cases in the city. The city is the hardest hit region in East Java with 554 confirmed cases and 71 deaths recorded as of Monday. 

According to the official government count, East Java is the third hardest hit province in the country, behind only Jakarta and West Java, with 1,124 cases and 117 fatalities recorded as of Monday.  

Despite the emergence of the cluster, East Java Manpower and Transmigration Agency head Himawan Estu Bagijo said that factories could continue to operate in Surabaya, Sidoarjo and Gresik, where large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) have been implemented. 

"No article in the PSBB regulation stipulates any restrictions on economic activities, only limitations. Factories may continue to operate as long as they adhere to physical distancing measures," he said.