Jakarta. Achmad Yurianto, the former spokesman of the National Covid-19 Task Force who became the country’s most popular health official during the first few months of the pandemic, died on Saturday after battling cancer for the last few weeks. He was 60 years old.
Achmad was officially appointed spokesman on March 3, 2020, only a day after the government confirmed the first Covid-19 deaths in Indonesia.
He regularly appeared on national televisions to inform the latest figures on new cases and deaths and always ended his briefings with the call for people to remain vigilant and follow public health protocols until he was replaced by a new official four months later.
He also became a key source of information for the media at a time when then Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto was largely out of sight.
Research firm Iconomics named him the PR Official of the Year in May 2020 for spreading “positive news” and courage when the public was being faced with disinformation and confusion about Covid-19.
After leaving the task force, he was appointed by President Joko Widodo to chair the Oversight Board of the national health insurance platform BPJS in February 2021.
Achmad had a spell as a military doctor and left the army as a colonel before joining the Health Ministry in 2015 to head the Public Health Crisis Center.
Earlier this week, Gatot Subroto Army Hospital in Jakarta announced that he was discharged at his own request because he wanted to continue medical treatment in Malang, East Java, where his family resides.
The hospital said he had been treated for colon cancer for several weeks.