Wilfully Blind: Indonesia is next

It’s no secret that Beijing has falsified its numbers of infected and dead, based on their mortuaries working 24/7.  But that’s due to politics and giving the world false impressions about the situation.  Countries are starting to question everything about China, major corporations looking to move their factories to other locations.

Indonesia’s unknown number of dead can be attributed to government incompetence.  The “official number” of infected (3500+) and dead (300+) may just be the tip of the iceberg.  The country has performed only 12000 tests in a country of 264 million.

Some areas of Indonesia have abnormally high death rates, and the country’s 9% fatality rate is one of the highest in the world, eclipsed only by Spain and Italy.  Worse yet, instead of testing and limiting travel, the government spent money to increase tourism during February.  Their own government scientists anticipate 240,000 deaths by the end of April.

From the Jakarta Post, April 9th:

Indonesia was in denial over coronavirus. Now it may be facing a looming disaster

Almost no one thinks Indonesia is handling the COVID-19 pandemic well.

Until early March, the government claimed it had no cases of infection, something the eccentric health minister, Terawan Agus Putranto, attributed to prayer. The home affairs minister urged the public to eat more bean sprouts and broccoli, while President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) sang the praises of jamu, traditional herbal remedies.

The government had been in denial. Terawan dismissed as “insulting” a report by Harvard University researchers saying Indonesia must have unreported cases. As recently as last Friday, another minister was still arguing the virus cannot survive in tropical climates.

Jokowi was apparently more concerned about the threat the virus posed to trade, investment and tourism. In February, when many countries were imposing tough travel restrictions, he planned to offer discounts of up to 30% to attract tourists. His government even allocated almost A$8 million to pay social media influencers for tourism promotions.

There are indications many cases and deaths are going undetected. Reuters examined data from Jakarta’s Department of Parks and Cemeteries and found 4,400 burials were conducted in the province in March, an increase of 40% above normal levels.

But even by the conservative official figures, the mortality rate of 9% is one of the highest in the world, although this could be because of insufficient testing.

In any case, scientists at the University of Indonesia have predicted that if stricter measures do not start immediately, the situation could spin out of control, with up to 240,000 deaths by the end of April.

Tragically, widespread testing, proper treatment and tough and effective social isolation measures are unlikely to happen soon.

The government is scrambling to prepare its health system to cope, but this looks like an impossible task. Indonesia has just four doctors and 12 hospital beds per 10,000 people, and less than three intensive care beds per 100,000. These levels are way below World Health Organisation or Asia-Pacific standards.

The “health minister” says prayer will cure it.  Unbelievable.

I have said privately that Indonesia’s death toll could be in the tens of millions not publicly to avoid being called alarmist.  If it kills a quarter million in a month and the spread is getting worse, then that number is possible.

And I hate to harp on again about smoking, but over 70% of Indonesian males smoke (the WHO claims 60+%).  I say males, not men, because smoking is common and encouraged among teens and childrenThe country has 600 deaths per day from smoking related illnesses (youtube video by Al Jazeera) even before COVID-19, and no significant laws limiting who can smoke.  There are precious few places where smoking is not allowed.  Tobacco companies can target children in advertising with impunity.



  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    I initially read that antepenultimate paragraph as “The ‘health monster’ says…” – apparently right the first time.