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Jakarta Post

No plans to redefine COVID-19 death: Task force

  • Moch. Fiqih Prawira Adjie

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, September 23, 2020   /   01:47 pm
No plans to redefine COVID-19 death: Task force Family members watch as gravediggers bury the body of a COVID-19 patient at the Pondok Ranggon cemetery in East Jakarta, on Sept. 21, 2020. Despite efforts to curb the outbreak, the death toll continues to climb and the cemetery is expected to be out of space by October. (JP/P.J. Leo)

The national COVID-19 task force has dismissed a proposal to redefine what constitutes a COVID-19 fatality, after it was suggested that deaths among people with comorbidities should be categorized separately in the official tally.

Previously, East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa had suggested to Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto that COVID-19 deaths among patients with comorbidities – the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient – should be categorized differently to deaths among patients without comorbidities in the death toll.

“As of now, the government has no plans to make the change proposed by the East Java governor,” task force spokesperson Wiku Adisasmito said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

He added that the government followed the World Health Organization’s guidelines in tallying COVID-19 deaths, which is to count all deaths of people with confirmed or probable cases of coronavirus infection, with exceptions made for unrelated causes of deaths, such as traffic accidents.

Probable cases refer to people who had not received their test results before their deaths, but who suffered from upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which clinically suggest COVID-19 infection.

Read also: 160 deaths in one day: Indonesia sets bleak virus record

According to the task force, other countries such as the United States followed similar guidelines for counting coronavirus fatalities.

The East Java administration, which had recorded 3,015 COVID-19 fatalities and more than 41,000 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, has claimed that 91.1 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the province are patients who had comorbidities.

Khofifah has since clarified her intentions for sending the letter to the health minister, claiming  she did not ask the government to redefine what constituted a COVID-19 death.

“On the other hand, East Java encourages honesty and openness in the recording and reporting of all information related to COVID-19 in a manner that is more detailed than the WHO guidelines so this pandemic can be brought to an end quickly,” the governor wrote on her Instagram account, @khofifah.ip, on Tuesday. 

In August, the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report that said 94 percent of people recorded to have died from COVID-19 had comorbidities.