JAKARTA – President Joko Widodo has called for greater transparency in the country’s Covid-19 pandemic fight as Indonesia grapples with the coronavirus outbreak which claimed another 10 lives overnight.
It marks a shift from his previous policy of withholding information, a decision Mr Joko, popularly called Jokowi at home, said was made to prevent widespread panic.
The move comes after he declared the outbreak a national disaster on Monday, and comes after the president was informed that the virus had spread to all provinces in the world’s fourth-most populous country of nearly 270 million people.
Indonesia on Thursday (April 16) announced 10 more deaths overnight from the virus, which has now claimed more than 460 lives and infected more than 5,000 people.
In his push for transparency, Mr Joko has ordered all coronavirus-related information in the country to be consolidated in a single system to be managed by the nation’s Covid-19 taskforce.
The system should include information such as people who are being monitored, those who have tested positive for the virus, patients receiving treatment, fatalities and recovered patients.
The president in addressing his Cabinet on Monday said the information should “be made transparent so that everyone can access the data”.
The next day Indonesia disclosed for the first time that it had 10,482 patients with Covid-19 symptoms, half of whom tested positive. The government previously only disclosed confirmed cases.
The country also revealed there were 139,137 people who had contact with confirmed cases, a figure previously not made public.
Citing University of Indonesia epidemiologist Dr Pandu Riono, the Jakarta Post on Wednesday reported that the country has a backlog of samples waiting to be tested in local laboratories.
Like many other countries, Indonesia is struggling to get the reagents that are used in test kits that rely on polymerase chain reactions (PCR) to check for the presence of the coronavirus.
The Straits Times understands that depleting stocks in reagents have impeded the country’s ability to quickly analyse swab tests as the number of suspected cases climb.
Mr Joko on Monday said Indonesia was able to conduct about 2,200 tests a day.
The country, which has so far administered 40,000 PCR tests, had also ordered 18 PCR test machines manufactured by pharmaceutical company Roche.
Some of the equipment have arrived and are currently being installed.
Professor Wiku Adisasmito, who leads the board of experts in the Covid-19 task force, said the country is also looking at using its stock of tuberculosis test equipment that, with a minor adjustment, can be used to test for the coronavirus.
However, he said only the more advanced units, or about a third of the 900 machines the country has, can be modified this way.
Indonesia had previously been identified a high-risk country for tuberculosis by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and as a result, has ready stock of the machines.
“These tuberculosis testing equipment would only need Covid-19 cartridges that we have ordered from the United States.
“We have these equipment across Indonesia, including at Puskesmas (community health centres),” Prof Wiku told The Straits Times, adding that Indonesia has ordered 170,000 cartridges from US, 10,000 of which have arrived.