Playing with Data
The number of people who died of Covid-19 in Indonesia is almost five times higher than the official total announced by the government.
THE difference between the figures for the number of Corona pandemic deaths released by the health ministry and those from the Covid-19 task force should not be allowed to continue. The rejection by the health ministry of the recommendation by the task force regarding the figure for the number of deaths could lead to a serious problem. Using the World Health Organization (WHO) standard, the statistics for the number of people infected and the number of patients who have died issued by the task force is far higher than the official figure released by the health ministry.
According to the health ministry, as of July 3, there were 60,695 coronavirus positive cases with total deaths at 3,036. This is the number that is announced every day by Disease Control and Prevention Director-General Achmad Yurianto, who is also the government’s spokesman for Covid-19.
The government has never openly admitted that the Covid-19 task force has different data. Based on the data by this institution, as of the same day, July 3, the number of positive patients was 62,050, with total deaths at 13,885. This total means that the death toll in Indonesia is the highest in Southeast Asia.
Adopting the WHO standard, the task force includes everybody who dies as a result of clinical symptoms resembling those of Corona cases. In Indonesia, this criterion includes people under observation and patients under surveillance. Meanwhile the health ministry uses its own standard: the death rate is calculated based on the number of patients who die after being tested positive for coronavirus. This method is clearly risky because not everybody is tested before their condition deteriorates.
The end result of the difference in this data is that the control of the spread of Covid-19 is not accurate. If the figure for the number of deaths does not use the WHO standard, policymakers in the regions and the public could obtain the wrong picture about the situation in their locality. The system of opening or closing areas and imposing or lifting large-scale social restrictions could also descend into chaos. As a result, the number of lives lost as a result of the pandemic could continue to increase.
Not only that, in terms of international relations, Indonesia is under threat of becoming a pariah state. For not adhering to WHO standards, Indonesia could be isolated if it is seen as incompetent in dealing with Covid-19. The epidemiology curve released by the government would not be believed and there could be a number of implications, from a ban on Indonesian citizens traveling to other countries to discriminative action in international trade.
Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto must immediately stop this dangerous manipulation of the data. Only with accurate data based on a global standard can the spread of Covid-19 be mapped. The President must order Terawan to adhere to this international standard. The President must not be swayed by unclear figures just to make himself happy, as if the death rate as a result of the pandemic in Indonesia is already in decline. Without an honest government, we will all be in grave peril.