President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, left, and State Secretary Minister Pratikno, deliver a statement on the Covid-19 outbreak in Indonesia in Jakarta on Tuesday. (Antara Photo/Sigid Kurniawan)

Protect Identity and Privacy of Covid-19 Patients: Jokowi

BY :DIANA MARISKA

MARCH 04, 2020

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has ordered officials to protect the identity and privacy of all confirmed Covid-19 patients, following the announcement on Monday of the country's first confirmed cases of the pneumonia-like infection. 

Indonesia's Covid-19 Patient 1 is a 31-year-old woman who caught the virus when coming into contact with a Japanese national who was later identified as Covid-19 victim number 24 in Malaysia. Indonesia's Patient 2 is the woman's 64-year-old mother. 

Later on Monday, private information of the patients was leaked to the public, including their names, home address, jobs and medical records.

Patient 2 told Kompas newspaper in an interview on Tuesday she felt disturbed and stigmatized by public speculations following the leak of information.

Others have raised concerns that subsequent coronavirus victims might be discouraged from coming forward with their illness for fear of being intimidated or even lynched, which will make it harder for the government to contain the virus.  

The president said he expected everyone involved in handling Covid-19 cases, including hospital staff and government officials, to follow the code of medical ethics and safeguard the patients' privacy rights.

"I have asked the [Health] Minister [Terawan Agus Putranto] to remind hospitals and government officials not to disclose the personal details of the patients. Their personal and privacy rights must be firmly upheld," Jokowi said on Tuesday.

Jokowi believes protecting the two women's privacy will have a positive impact on their psychological condition – also crucial for their recovery.

Speaking to the media on a separate occasion, Achmad Yurianto, the secretary-general of the Health Ministry's disease control and environmental health directorate and now also the ministry's spokesman on the Covid-19 outbreak, also said all medical workers are bound to follow the code of medical ethics.

"First, we must conceal the identity of the patient. Usually, we only mention their gender and age. We must also keep the name of the hospital a secret," Achmad said at the ministry's headquarters in Jakarta.

He said any extra information regarding the first two Covid-19 patients in Indonesia did not come from the ministry. 

Wenceslaus Manggut, the chairman of the Indonesian Cyber Media Association (AMSI), said keeping Covid-19 patients' private information confidential is one of the keys to maintaining public optimism during an outbreak.

"Their identity must be kept confidential. The names, addresses and personal data of the patients should never be shared," Wenseslaus said. 

"Avoid reading articles that could trigger panic," he said. 

Government Prepares More Health Facilities

In response to the first confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Indonesia, the government will prepare more hospitals to treat patients and those who are still under observation as well as more health facilities to test specimen from people who are suspected of the disease.

Addressing a previous statement from the Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono about an order to build a special hospital on Galang Island in the Riau Islands Province to treat Covid-19 patients, Jokowi said the government would renovate existing facilities so Indonesia has several options to treat patients of viral diseases, including Covid-19.

"The facilities are already there but haven't been used for a long time. We have one on Sebaru Island [where the Diamond Princess crew have been undergoing observation] and [we will have another facility ready on] Galang Island. We've also had a quarantine area on Natuna Island. We've got options and we'll have even more," Jokowi said.

The government will also add 32 reference hospitals in addition to the existing 100. These hospitals are equipped with isolation facilities to treat patients infected with the novel coronavirus.

Achmad also confirmed that polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests using a specimen to determine whether a person has been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus can now be done in 10 health facilities across the country.

Previously, the test could only be done at the ministry's Health Research and Development Board (Balitbangkes) facility in Jakarta.

With these additional facilities, the government now expects to be able to test more suspected Covid-19 patients and provide faster results.

"We can do the [PCR] test at the Balai Besar Teknologi Kesehatan Lingkungan (BBTKL) in Jakarta, Surabaya, Yogyakarta and Banjarbaru and also at the Balai Teknologi Kesehatan Lingkungan (BTKL) in Batam, Medan, Palembang, Makassar, Manado and Ambon. We have trained personnel carrying out the PCR test under supervision by the Health Research and Development Board," Achmad said.

Contact Tracing Continues

In an interview with Kompas, Patient 2 claimed she and her daughter had gone to the hospital, got the information that their Japanese friend in Malaysia had contracted the virus and then asked to be tested here if they had also caught it, all by themselves. 

The Health Ministry's spokesman Achmad said one of the government's priorities now is to trace people who were there on the same occasion when one of the patients came into contact with the Japanese national in Malaysia who later tested positive for the virus.

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