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Jakarta Post

Flattening COVID-19 curve seen in weekly, not daily figures, govt says

  • Marchio Irfan Gorbiano

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, May 11, 2020   /   09:11 pm
Flattening COVID-19 curve seen in weekly, not daily figures, govt says Health workers take a COVID-19 swab sample from a passenger at a commuter train station in Bogor on May 11. (REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana)

After receiving criticism over its claim that the number of new COVID-19 cases had been decreasing, the government said on Monday that its assertion was based on weekly figures, not daily figures.

Indonesia's COVID-19 task force announced last week that the number of new coronavirus cases in the country had declined by 11 percent, although government updates showed some rises in daily cases.

On Saturday, the government reported the country's biggest one-day increase with 533 new confirmed cases, only days after health authorities recorded the previous highest daily increase on Tuesday of 484 new cases.

Wiku Adisasmito, head of expert staff for the COVID-19 task force, said on Monday said that the parameter used to determine that the curve was flattening was the change in the weekly number of new cases from the 10 provinces with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

“What [we] meant with the flattening curve was that it was considered on a weekly basis. If the weekly trend is decreasing consistently – whether it's high or not – it is considered to be flattening. The rise is slowing, which leads to a slowing cumulative figure,” Wiku said.

In Jakarta, for instance, there was a surge of cases in April followed by decreasing trend, he claimed. "There was eventually a surge again, maybe because the amount of testing had increased. Therefore, this trend cannot be seen based on daily figures but by week-to-week comparisons instead."

A similar trend also occurred in West Java – the second hardest-hit province in the nation – where new cases had been slowing before a surge last week, Wiku said.

Read also: COVID-19 creeps into Jakarta's kampungs

Last week, Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy said the number of new COVID-19 cases in Indonesia was continuing to fall and that the country had recorded only a moderate number of infections compared to other ASEAN countries.

Critics, however, were skeptical of the government's claims. They said Indonesia's low testing capacity – fewer than 1,600 tests a day since March 3 – made it likely that the nation’s cases were underreported.

Iqbal Ridzi Fahdri Elyazar, a disease surveillance and biostatistics researcher at the Eijkman-Oxford Clinical Research Unit, said the government was not looking at the right curve – namely the epidemic curve – to assess the distribution of cases but was instead using analytical tools that were “invalid, inaccurate, not trustworthy and don’t meet the epidemiological standards".

Experts have also questioned the government's plan to ease coronavirus travel restrictions and gradually lift social restrictions starting in June.

Wiku, however, said on Monday that if the government opted to reopen economic activity, it would implement the policy on a region-by-region basis – not impose a blanket nationwide policy.

COVID-19 task force chief Doni Monardo claimed on Monday that the allegedly flattening curve was the result of successful large-scale social restrictions (PSBB). He said that almost all of the provinces that had imposed the partial lockdown had shown progress.

“For instance, Jakarta, on April 5, accounted for at least 50 percent of the national figure of COVID-19 infection. But on May 5, it decreased to only 39 percent [of the national figure],” Doni said, urging other regions to take similar initiative.

According to the official government tally, Jakarta had 1,143 total cases on April 5 and 4,687 total cases on May 5, about a fourfold increase in a month. It is unclear whether the percent decrease that Doni described was a result of Jakarta’s policies or of the virus penetrating into other parts of the nation. (asp)