Worldometer's Covid-19 testing numbers not valid for countries like Indonesia: Jokowi aide

JAKARTA – Senior Indonesian minister and close Jokowi aide Luhut Pandjaitan has disputed the validity of certain coronavirus testing figures published by data collection site Worldometer.

The coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment has argued that giving a ratio of Covid-19 testing numbers to a country’s overall population provides a skewed perspective of countries covering multiple vast and remote geographical regions.

He said that Indonesia is a vast archipelagic and highly populated country with countless remote locations across its 34 provinces, with more than 17,000 islands. Hence, Worldometer’s testing rate per population measure is not valid for his country.

Mr Luhut added that Indonesia, Japan and other similar countries suffer from this type of bias, adding that Japan’s tests per million population – 11,795 at last count – is around the same level as Indonesia’s.

“We do very aggressive testing in at least six provinces (that have) the most coronavirus cases. We obviously do not need to be as aggressive, for example, in Bangka Belitung province,” Mr Luhut told The Straits Times on Thursday (Sept 3) morning.

Bangka Belitung has recorded 235 positive Covid-19 cases and two fatalities in the 1.5 million people that reside there.

The six Indonesian provinces with the most Covid-19 cases are Jakarta, East Java, Central Java, South Sulawesi, West Java and South Kalimantan. Together, they account for 68 per cent of all infections in the country.

Indonesia has a population of about 270 million and has recorded 180,646 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 129,971 recoveries and 7,616 deaths as of Wednesday.

The country has been in the spotlight for having the lowest testing rate among countries, with more than 100,000 confirmed cases of infection.

According to pandemic figures by data site Worldometer, with 8,287 tests for every million people, Indonesia – the world’s fourth-most populous country – is ranked the lowest among countries with 100,000 cases or above. Bangladesh is the second worst, with 9,563 tests for every million, and Mexico third, with 10,530 tests per million.

In a virtual briefing on Wednesday, Professor Wiku Adisasmito, spokesman for the national Covid-19 task force, said Indonesia has many islands where few or no people travel in or out of.

A lot of these islands have not recorded any Covid-19 cases, Prof Wiku added.

There are 26 cities and regencies in Indonesia that have not seen any coronavirus cases and another 42 that have seen no increase in new cases in the past week, according to government data.

Nias Island in North Sumatra province, Konawe islands in Southeast Sulawesi province and Aru Islands in Maluku province are among regions that have not recorded a single confirmed Covid-19 case.

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