Bali Governor Wayan Koster has become the subject of controversy today after he reportedly claimed that hospitals in the province are exaggerating COVID-19 deaths.
If you’ve been paying attention to COVID-19-related discourse in Indonesia, the narrative is likely a familiar one. Throughout the pandemic, various uncorroborated claims (which borderline as conspiracy theories, really) have been making the rounds, such as how hospitals are supposedly falsifying COVID-19 deaths, further implying that those numbers are making the public health crisis look much worse than the reality.
Koster pretty much implied the same thing last night, as he noted how, in general, many of the recently deceased are those with underlying medical conditions.
“Generally those who died are due to underlying conditions. In fact, some of those who didn’t die as a COVID-19 patient are documented as having died due to COVID-19. When in reality, they were in the hospital not because of COVID-19. They go through a swab test after they die suddenly. There are many cases like that,” Koster was quoted as saying.
When asked about which hospitals have committed such abhorrent practice, Koster told reporters that “there are many,” but said he can’t go into each one in detail. He added that those cases are now in the past and will therefore see no legal prosecution. Furthermore, the governor did not share any official data to support his claims.
Koster’s statement has drawn controversy online since this morning, with many — including healthcare professionals — pointing out the fact that Indonesia is still suffering from a lack of testing and underreporting for the viral disease, 10 months after the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the country.
“The number of COVID-19 deaths in Indonesia has not been exaggerated, but are way below the actual numbers because of undertesting and underreporting factors. These deluded accusations will only further the stigma against COVID-19 among the public and make it more difficult to tackle the pandemic.”
“Hospitals are full, sir. Right now treating COVID-positive patients is difficult, and so treatment is prioritized for those with medium to severe symptoms, why would they falsely claim COVID for those without COVID?”
Almost a year on, Indonesia continues to record an increasing number of COVID-19 cases and has not seen the end of its first wave. Hospitals are reportedly running out of beds, and the rate of infection is not seeing a sign of slowing down. As of yesterday afternoon, the country has confirmed nearly 780,000 cases.
Bali, meanwhile, recorded 191 new coronavirus cases today, putting the provincial total to 18,606.