Undercounting COVID-19 cases is believed to be a problem hardly exclusive to Indonesia, but a recent claim from experts may be the strongest indication yet that some Indonesian regions are deliberately squishing case numbers for political reasons.
Lapor COVID-19 (Report COVID-19), a civil society coalition that crowdsources coronavirus information from throughout the country, today said that some regional officials are pressuring doctors to manipulate COVID-19 data, as tweeted by one of the coalition’s leaders, Ahmad Arif.
Laporcovid-19 mendapat informasi dari sejumlah dokter yang ditekan kepala daerah agar mengurangi tes PCR dan hanya memakai tes cepat antibodi agar kasus positif di daerah tidak bertambah. Daerah itu meliputi Nusa Tenggara Barat, serta Lamongan dan Kediri, Jawa Timur.
— Ahmad Arif (@aik_arif) July 3, 2020
“Lapor COVID-19 received tip-offs from a number of doctors that they were pressured by regional officials to reduce PCR testing and to only use antibody rapid testing so the number of positive cases in the region doesn’t increase. The regions include [the province of] West Nusa Tenggara, as well as Lamongan and Kediri in East Java,” Ahmad tweeted.
Another leading member of the coalition, Irma Hidayana, said that one of their healthcare collaborators, which consist of some of the top experts in the industry, was among those who reported being pressured to keep case numbers low in their region.
Based on their findings, Lapor COVID-19 is urging the central government to ditch the less-reliable and cost-ineffective rapid tests and focus on PCR testing across Indonesia.
The identities of the regional heads who allegedly manipulated COVID-19 data were not disclosed, though no official from the regions mentioned by Ahmad have issued any statement thus far.
As of July 2, East Java is the province with the highest COVID-19 caseload in Indonesia, comprising 12,695 confirmed cases. Its death toll, 948, is also the highest in the country.
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