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Jakarta Post

Data discrepancy, testing credibility haunt Indonesia’s COVID-19 management

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, December 18, 2020   /   06:06 pm
Data discrepancy, testing credibility haunt Indonesia’s COVID-19 management  Medical staff get ready to take swab samples for free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing paid for by state-owned Bank Negara Indonesia in South Tangerang, Banten. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

The Health Ministry announced 7,354 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections nationwide to 643,508. 

According to the same data, 142 more people died of COVID-19 in a single day, bringing the death toll to 19,390. 

However, epidemiological modeling points to discrepancy between the report released by the ministry and the actual numbers.

The model estimates that Indonesia’s COVID-19 infections have reached 88,904 a day, reported on Friday.

According to the data released by the national COVID-19 task force, Jakarta recorded 1,690 new confirmed cases, bringing the total tally there to 158,033. Meanwhile, West Java reported 1,277 new cases, East Java 855, Central Java 620, South Sulawesi 333 and Riau 288. The task force also reported eight new confirmed cases in each Aceh and North Maluku.

Despite some improvement in Indonesia’s testing capacity, the epidemiological model by the Institute for Metrics and Evaluation estimates the number of daily new cases in Indonesia at 88,904.

“It is possible that the new daily cases could be 88,000 or more,” said Iqbal Elyazar, an epidemiologist with Indonesian volunteer group Lapor COVID-19.

Read also: Pandemic priority: Anything but testing

He explained that the epidemiological model combined the number of fatalities with various variables, including the number of COVID-19 patients receiving treatment, testing rates and suspected cases.

The group, for example, records an average of 250 deaths daily. The data is collected from cities and regencies across Indonesia. Meanwhile, the task force only reported 142 deaths on Thursday.

As the country has yet to reveal all the death cases, Indonesia’s transmission rate could be higher than the reports. 

In addition to data discrepancy, Indonesia also faces an issue in its COVID-19 testing credibility. 

Taiwan, for example, has suspended entry of Indonesian migrants indefinitely, citing Indonesia's COVID-19 test results as the issue.

According to Focus Taiwan, 11 Indonesians tested positive for the disease in Taiwan in October, although they had been tested negative in Indonesia.

Moreover, between Dec. 1 and 15, Taiwan also found 80 percent of positive cases from Indonesia in which the subjects had been tested negative in the home country.

“These test results have become more inaccurate over time. We are not sure what the problem is,” said Taiwanese Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung on Wednesday, as quoted by IDN Financials.

Responding to the issue, Molecular Biology expert Ahmad Rusdah Handoyo Utomo said that there should be an investigation into the matter.

“We need to do an investigation, [checking] which laboratories issued the letters. Are the results really negative or are there other factors?” he said, adding that he had received information that one could purchase a fake polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result for a trip to Japan. (jes)


Editor’s note: This article is part of a public campaign by the COVID-19 task force to raise people’s awareness about the pandemic.