Extracts from a very long Guardian report (link below) showing why there is good reason to be worried about the reported absence of the Wuhan virus in Indonesia.
A Harvard academic has defended research suggesting a possible underreporting of coronavirus cases in Indonesia, following fierce criticism from the health minister in the world’s fourth most populous country, which insists it has no cases.
Professor Marc Lipsitch analysed air traffic out of the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak in China and suggested in a report last week that Indonesia might have missed cases. On Tuesday the Indonesian health minister Terawan Agus Putranto called the report “insulting” and said the country had proper testing equipment.
On Thursday, health officials in Indonesia, which has a population of 272 million and is a popular destination for Chinese tourists, said they were retracing the movements of a Chinese tourist who was diagnosed with coronavirus upon his return from Bali. No-one in Bali has yet been found with symptoms.
Note there were no test kits until early Feb
A leading hypothesis for the lack of reported cases in Indonesia is that imported cases were missed, said Lipsitch, who pointed to a Sydney Morning Herald report that the country had no test kits until 5 February in support of the theory.
“If cases have been introduced into Indonesia, then there is a good chance that more cases are circulating via transmission from those cases. If so, they may go undetected for some weeks as the individuals may not seek care or may not be suspected and tested for coronavirus, especially if there is no direct link to China.”
Samples only tested in Jakarta
Currently, the policy in Yogyakarta is to ship all samples from potentially affected patients to testing facilities in Jakarta
Insufficient training to detect virus
Dr Riris Andono Ahmad, director of the Center for Tropical Medicine at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, said facilities had been set up to handle potential cases but health practitioners have not received sufficient training. “We need to be much more alert,” Ahmad said.
Insufficient public knowledge
“Public awareness of effective prevention measures is not high,” he said. “For instance, there was a lot of panic-buying of masks, but masks only work with people who are already sick. Whereas something that actually works, like washing hands more frequently – I don’t know how many people are really doing it yet.”
And finally, Indonesian officials are BS artists One senior former diplomat in the country, who did not want to to be named, said he did not believe official assertions that no cases had been found. “There’s a tendency to hide or gloss over serious problems in the top levels of the government,” he said. “I’m a bit concerned.”.