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Jakarta Post

Death toll from suspected cases keeps rising, reaching at least 3,833

  • Tri Indah Oktavianti

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, May 21, 2020   /   09:04 am
Death toll from suspected cases keeps rising, reaching at least 3,833 Workers at Pondok Rangon Public Cemetery in East Jakarta carry the coffin of a COVID-19 patient on April 1. (JP/P.J.Leo )

The government should not rush into easing restrictions in the country’s COVID-19 red zones, as the number of deaths suspected to have been caused by the coronavirus has risen to more than 3,800, a civil society group says.

Lapor COVID-19, which consists of several civil groups, reported that fatalities among suspected COVID-19 cases in 18 provinces of Indonesia numbered 3,833 as of May 15, based on information gleaned from the websites of regional administrations—provinces, regencies and municipalities. Combined with the 1,242 deaths among confirmed cases as of May 20, the total number of deaths was at least 5,075.

On May 13, another volunteer group, KawalCovid-19, recorded 3,180 deaths of patients suspected to have COVID-19, consisting of 3,091 patients under surveillance (PDP) and 90 people under monitoring (ODP). That data comes from the COVID-19 websites of 16 of the 34 country’s provinces. The group has since updated the data to show that, as of May 16, 18 provinces in Indonesia had reported 3,657 deaths among PDP and ODP cases.

Not all provinces revealed the death toll among suspected cases. Bali, for example, does not provide such data.

Lapor COVID-19 spokesperson Irma Hidayana said the government with its official death toll was underreporting cases and should instead follow the World Health Organization’s (WHO) latest guidance on including deaths among suspected cases.

Since April 11, the WHO defines a COVID-19 death as any death resulting from a clinically compatible illness in a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19. Based on that definition, the cumulative death toll of people who had or may have had the virus should be included in the COVID-19 death figure.

“The situation shows that the limited number of tests and delays in the process might cause people with suspected COVID-19 to die even before they get tested,” Irma added.

While President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo promised in April to ramp up coronavirus testing to 10,000 tests per day, government data show that only 6,340 tests were conducted on Wednesday, and the maximum number of daily tests was 7,111 on April 12. A mere 2,562 people were tested on Monday.

The President has called on residents to make peace and “coexist” with the virus in a “new normal” situation.

“Living in peace does not mean we are giving up, but we are adapting,” he said on Friday.

“The transition toward a new normal by reopening the economy should be based on measurable indicators with scientifically valid and transparent data,” Irma said in a statement made available on Sunday. The group also raised concerns about crowds forming at airports, shopping centers and a fast food outlet, indicating that many people did not heed government instructions about continued physical distancing.

"The government has to be well prepared and prioritize public health before reopening the economy," the statement said.