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Jakarta Post

Three dead, dozens test positive as COVID-19 cluster emerges among Surabaya journalists

  • Nina Loasana

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, July 14, 2020   /   10:20 am
Three dead, dozens test positive as COVID-19 cluster emerges among Surabaya journalists Motorists wait at an intersection on Jl. Wonokromo in Surabaya, East Java, on June 9, the first day after the city lifted its large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) policy. (Antara/Didik Suhartono)

Over 50 media workers in Surabaya, East Java, have tested positive for COVID-19, with three succumbing to the disease, the Surabaya branch of the Alliance of Independent Journalists says.

"So far 57 media workers have tested positive for COVID-19 through PCR [polymerase chain reaction] tests. We also found six people whose rapid test results were reactive,” AJI Surabaya head Miftah Faridl told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

He said that 54 of the 57 cases were employees of the Surabaya branch of national radio broadcaster Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI).

According to Faridl, RRI management had cooperated with the Surabaya Health Agency to carry out PCR tests on hundreds of RRI employees on June 26. However, since they had not received the results after some time, the management decided to ask the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) to conduct another round of PCR testing on July 6.

He said that the BNPB results came out on July 7, with all RRI Surabaya employees testing negative.

"However, on July 11, the Surabaya Health Agency released the results of the PCR tests and 54 people were found to be positive for COVID-19," Faridl said, adding that only two of the 54 employees had been hospitalized.

Due to the different results of the PCR tests, the RRI management conducted a third test on Monday.

Read also: Resident doctors take on COVID-19 as training hangs in balance

According to Faridl, there were three contributing factors behind so many journalists and media workers in Surabaya contracting COVID-19.

"Firstly, many journalists fail to follow health protocols and continue to attend events or press conferences that ignore the protocols," he said. "They should boycott such events, but in reality, such a thing has never happened in Surabaya.”

The second is the desire among public officials to publicize their activities in big ceremonial events.

"One official, for example, invited dozens of journalists and hundreds of app-based ojek [motorcycle taxi] drivers for his social aid distribution," Faridl said, describing such events as unnecessary.

The third, he explained, was media companies' reluctance to protect the health of their employees.

"When an official holds a press conference that does not adhere to the health protocols, a lot of media companies don't prevent their journalists from attending the event. Instead, they demand their journalists report it even if it puts their health at risk,” he said.

Since the end of May, East Java has emerged as a new epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, recording 16,877 confirmed cases as of Monday, nearly half of which have been in Surabaya.