We Don't Cover Things Up, Indonesia Says Amid Doubts Over Its Covid-19 Handling
Jakarta. The Indonesian government employs a transparent approach in containing the spread of the novel coronavirus and strictly follows World Health Organization procedures in treating suspected patients, a top health official said as foreign governments raised doubts about Indonesia's claim of zero local transmission case.
At least 50 countries have reported coronavirus cases since the outbreak began in the Chinese city of Wuhan last month, but Indonesia – which received around 2 million Chinese tourists annually – insisted that no single case of domestic transmission has been found.
"We have nothing to hide and we tell nothing but the truth," Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto said in Jakarta on Thursday.
"If all [suspected cases] turned out to be negative, that's a blessing from God. People may doubt this but that's the truth," he said.
Five Indonesian citizens have tested positive for coronavirus but all the cases happened abroad. They include four crew members of the Diamond Princess cruise ship now being treated at separate hospitals in Japan and an Indonesian maid working in Singapore, who is said to be recovering.
A male patient previously suspected of having the highly contagious virus died at Kariadi Hopsital in Semarang, Central Java, on Sunday.
But hospital officials announced on Thursday the 37-year-old patient died of swine flu based on clinical specimen test whose results came out after his burial.
The patient was allegedly infected during a recent trip to Madrid earlier this month, doctors have said.
Terawan said his office had conducted clinical specimen tests from 134 suspected coronavirus patients and the results were all negative, raising questions from other countries.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison questioned the data on Friday.
"It’s a very big country with a lot of islands and it would be very difficult to give absolute assurances about those numbers," Morrison told Australian radio station 3AW, as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald.
The same media also reported that diplomats from western countries including the United States have held a closed-door meeting with Indonesian health officials to raise concerns about the country's handling of Covid-19, the formal name for the novel coronavirus disease.
The Indonesian officials were reportedly warned that "we believe it is critical for your government to be actively conducting case detection."
Concerns were also expressed that "many hospitals do not have adequate PPE [personal protective equipment], not enough isolation beds and specimen transportation is inadequate."
Terawan admitted the specimen tests were limited to suspected patients or people with a recent history of visits to countries with a high number of infected persons.
"It’s impossible to conduct tests on every person who has a cold, because the number could reach millions," he said.
Apart from the 134 tests at home, Indonesian medical workers took clinical specimens from
188 World Dream cruise ship crew members, who began their two-week observation on an island near Jakarta on Friday.
The Health Ministry would also conduct specimen tests on 68 Diamond Princess crew members in Japan, bringing the total number of the coronavirus tests close to 400, Terawan said.
The Health Ministry's facility in Jakarta can conduct 1,000 specimen tests per day but it wouldn't be efficient to do so without clear indications of the Covid-19 symptoms, the minister said.