JAKARTA – Indonesia has criticised a US study questioning why the world’s fourth most populous nation had not yet recorded a case of Covid-19, calling the findings an insult and insisting it was on high alert.
The coronavirus has killed more than 1,100 people in China and spread to dozens of countries around the world – but the South-east Asian nation of more than 260 million has not reported a confirmed case since the outbreak.
A study by Harvard University public health researchers this week found Indonesia should have reported a coronavirus outbreak and could have undetected cases given its extensive air links to China and the city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.
Indonesian health minister Terawan Agus Putranto called the Harvard report “insulting” late Tuesday and said the country had proper testing equipment.
“They can be baffled but it’s a fact” there are no cases, he told reporters in Jakarta. “I am just telling you like it is.”
The Harvard study also added that Indonesia’s surveillance efforts should be “rapidly strengthened”.
The country – which attracts more than two million Chinese tourists a year and hosts thousands of guest workers – has shut down all flights to and from mainland China in response to virus fears.
It has readied 100 hospitals across the archipelago and has also quarantined more than 240 of its citizens evacuated from Hubei province to the island of Natuna, north of Borneo. And the government has said it tested dozens of suspected cases, but none were positive.
“The bottom line is that we’re following international standards,” Mr Putranto said.”We’re not hiding anything.”
The World Health Organisation said earlier this month it is particularly concerned about high-risk nations with weaker health systems, which may lack the facilities to identify cases.
“It’s not the same in every country,” said biochemistry researcher Chairul Anwar Nidom at Indonesia’s Airlangga University.
“Is it possible that Indonesia has coronavirus cases? of course… But it’s also possible that it doesn’t.”
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