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Jakarta Post

COVID-19 volunteers urge govt to release data as suspected virus deaths exceed 3,000

  • Budi Sutrisno

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, May 14, 2020   /   07:04 pm
COVID-19 volunteers urge govt to release data as suspected virus deaths exceed 3,000 A worker prepares a grave at a government cemetery for victims of COVID-19 in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 22. (REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan )

Volunteers for crowdsourced database KawalCovid-19 have renewed their calls for the government to release all of its COVID-19 data as the number of suspected COVID-19 deaths recorded by provincial administrations in the country have exceeded 3,000, nearly three times the confirmed death toll reported by the national COVID-19 task force.

KawalCovid-19 co-founder Elina Ciptadi said the availability of data on suspected deaths was important so that Indonesians would understand the severity of the outbreak in their respective territories and would be able to calculate risk appropriately.

“We need to be aware of the magnitude of the spread of the virus to take necessary precautions. Right now, people only understand the scale [of the outbreak] after a friend or family member contracts the disease,” Elina told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, KawalCovid-19 had recorded a total of 3,180 deaths of patients suspected to have COVID-19, consisting of 3,091 patients under surveillance (PDP) and 90 people under monitoring (ODP), from the COVID-19 websites of a limited number of the 34 country’s provinces.

The actual number is likely to be much higher, as many provinces have chosen not to report PDP or ODP deaths, including hard-hit areas such as West Java, Bali and South Sumatra. The provinces that reported the ODP or PDP deaths also do not necessarily have complete data on deaths from the regency or municipality level.

Only 60 of the PDPs who died tested negative for the virus after their deaths. Thousands of others either were not tested or have yet to receive their results.

Elina said the country’s low testing rate undermined the government’s data accuracy.

“A person should only be considered a suspected case for few days before their test results make clear whether they have the virus or not,” she said. “In Indonesia, suspected cases can wait for weeks to learn that, which also leads to late treatment.”

LaporCOVID-19, a volunteer group that helps KawalCOVID-19 collect and verify data, reported that it had received 3,800 COVID-19-related complaints from the community, many of which said that late testing had led to unclear causes of death.

The group’s co-founder, Irma Hidayana, also urged the government to release data on suspected COVID-19 deaths, saying that a more accurate mortality rate could lead to more reliable policies.

“It appears that some regional administrations have moved faster than the central government in recording and releasing important data,” she said, adding that all provinces should be transparent with their data.

The World Health Organization (WHO) broadened its definition of a COVID-19 death last month to include suspected deaths that had no alternative causes.

“A COVID-19 death is a death resulting from a clinically compatible illness in a probable or confirmed COVID-19 case, unless there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be related to COVID-19,” the WHO stated in its situation report on April 11.

The Health Ministry has nevertheless continued to report only confirmed deaths, with the official death toll reaching 1,043 as of Thursday. The ministry does, however, report the nationwide total of suspected cases. There were 33,672 PDPs and 258,639 ODPs as of Thursday.

The ministry’s disease control and prevention director general, Achmad Yurianto, declined to provide the nationwide number of suspected deaths when contacted by the Post on Thursday.

“We have the data, but we are not going to announce it to the public willy-nilly. Regional task forces also have the data. If you want complete data, ask the regions,” he said.


Editor's note: The number of ODP and PDP cases have been revised and the article has been updated to clarify the sources for PDP and ODP deaths.