The Phnom Penh Post
Data gaps persist in Indonesia over a year into Covid
OVER a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, the Indonesian government is still struggling to present real-time, consistent data on cases and fatalities related to the disease.
Data discrepancies can be seen in case and fatality numbers, between those provided by cities and regencies and those by the provincial administrations and the central government, with the gaps reaching to the thousands.
Central Java, for instance, has reported on its website more than 202,600 total confirmed cases so far with more than 12,800 deaths. But the central government had only reported over 9,100 deaths in the province as of May 30, representing a gap of 3,600.
The province is currently experiencing a spike in cases in some of its regions, with some hospitals in Kudus facing bed occupancy rates of around 90 per cent. But while the provincial website announced 550 new cases on May 30, the central government reported 1,000 new cases in the region on the same day.
In Yogyakarta, the number of Covid-19 cases accumulated from the websites of its five regencies and cities as of May 30 reached around 46,000 – about 1,400 higher than roughly 44,500 cases reported by both the Yogyakarta provincial administration and the central government on the same day. This was bigger than a gap of around 1,200 observed on May 20.
Data on deaths as of May 30 also differed, with the provincial administration recording almost 250 more deaths than the central government at around 1,400 fatalities.
Ronald Bessie, the data coordinator of crowdsourced database KawalCOVID-19, said his team had compared data from the central government down to the level of cities and regencies and used only the data that showed the highest number of cases in a certain region.
Through this, it found that Central Java may have 240,000 cases already, while West Java, which is currently recorded as having over 4,000 deaths, may actually have over 6,800, he said.
“Differences would be okay if the gap was small. But if the gap is big, we won’t know how serious or how good the situation actually is,” he told the Jakarta Post last week.
Such data discrepancies are hardly new. Even governors have brought it up on several occasions, including West Java governor Ridwan Kamil and Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo.
Both have since last year publicly voiced their complaints
that the numbers of daily new cases in their regions provided by the central government were either higher or lower than figures reported by their administrations due to delays.
Central Java Health Agency head Yulianto Prabowo said this was because the system the provincial administration was using was built before the central government established its own database system – the health ministry’s New All Records (NAR).
“If the aim is to make all data the same, then there has to be only one system. But we can’t just close down our system, which was built first,” he said
during a virtual media meeting on May 28.
In August last year, when asked about the same issue, Yulianto said that other than the use of different systems, it might have been because of different methods used to input data by provincial and central governments.
The former, he said, recorded patients based on their current location of residence and the latter based on their registered address on their ID card. But the national Covid-19 task force said at the time this was not the case.
The Yogyakarta administration’s spokesperson for Covid19 affairs, Berty Murtiningsih, said data from cities and regencies as well as those from the provincial administration and the central government could be deemed valid.
She said some regions had included data on people tested using the antigen rapid test, who had not been further tested using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for the purpose of contact tracing and prompt handling.
“The Yogyakarta provincial administration and the central government use the New All Records application, through which health facilities and labs input their data that are then verified by local health agencies. It takes time; it can’t be real-time yet,” she told the Post.
In early March, exactly a year since Indonesia reported its first Covid-19 cases and when the government was in the process of synchronising data with regions, Covid-19 task force spokesperson Wiku Adisasmito said the lag varied between regions, ranging between days and months.
He said despite that, the government would still come up with policies tailored to data on the real conditions.
“It can be because the data is incomplete and needs verification. Then the verification is not finished … and no decision is made on how to act on this [incomplete] data,” Wiku told a limited media meeting at the time.
Deputy health minister Dante Saksono Harbuwono at the time said it was also attributed to the limited capacity of labs to run tests and consequently, results reported were those of cases that had been discovered days before.
But it is not only a case of testing capacity – it is also about the data entry process that can require much time and resources among lab workers, lab managers have told the Post.
Ronald of KawalCOVID-19 said it was important to see whether cities and regencies had equal resources for data management and a synchronised system with the central government, otherwise there would be no guidance in making policies tailored to the regions.
The lack of testing has made it even harder to identify cases and deaths related to Covid-19, Ronald said, fearing a false sense of security.
“Now we need to start seeing the excess deaths, the excess burials during the pandemic. Unfortunately, this data is not available [to the public] yet, but we encourage the government to start looking into it,” he said.