COVID-19: A central Java perspective

April 2, 2020
Sign declaring a village lockdown. Photo: Didot Klasta/Facebook

A lot of people have been commenting that Indonesia is covering up the figures on COVID-19 transmission.

The reality is that Indonesia (and many other countries) has not had (and still doesn't have) the infrastructure for even small-scale, let alone mass testing.

Central Java (with a population of more than 30 million people) will only have its own lab to start testing this week (sometime) with a maximum testing capacity of 40 samples per day, which they hope to increase to 100 over time. Prior to this, one lab served all of Central Java province and the special province of Yogyakarta.

8000-odd rapid test kits were sent to Central Java at the end of last week as part of the national distribution of rapid tests kits by the national government (they only had 100,000 test kits to start with).

These will not even cover medical staff and people currently already in the monitoring system, both those in hospital and those in community quarantine.

We know from the death rate that the positive infection rate is much higher than official numbers, but that doesn't mean regional and municipal governments are not proactive.

The tracing and monitoring of suspect cases is happening and while data relies on information from the local area (so can't be 100% accurate) the figures for monitoring suggest that local health services have been well mobilised to track and trace people with symptoms and contact histories and to identify people who have just arrived in the area (in particular, people leaving Jakarta to return to home villages because they have no income as a result of the crisis).

Local health centres can be contacted if you think you may be COVID-19 positive and staff will come to your house to determine what you need to do. These contact numbers have been distributed via local neighbourhood heads.

While we are scared, like millions of people around the world, the constant barrage of best practice models for curtailing the virus are just not possible in so many countries. But, there are extraordinary local and regional efforts by health staff, community neighbourhood groups, medical students, university campuses and many social and political groups to respond to the crisis and to figure out — with the resources we have — what we can do.

So just remember that what is the “best case” for a country with extensive resources and excellent health infrastructure — in other countries [means] we just work with what we have.

These are the figures as of this morning for Central Java of patients being monitored, those hospitalised but not yet with a positive COVID diagnosis and those positive.

There are also maps that name the villages of all these people, so that people can understand where there are suspected cases.

The number of people under officially identified quarantine for COVID-19 has escalated dramatically in the last few days across Central Java and other regions of Indonesia.

The reason for this is that city, local villages, neighbourhoods and districts have expanded the definition of people for this category to include people who have recently arrived in the area, who are asked to voluntarily quarantine themselves and there is local health facility and commmunity monitoring via neighbourhood structures.

Previously, it was people who had travelled from overseas or from regions with active COVID-19 cases and had symptoms.

Now, this status includes healthy people who have travelled from any region that has positive Coronavirus cases.

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