COVID-19 Op-ed

Concealing Data During the Pandemic: A Human Security Threat in Indonesia

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Muhammad Faiz Krisnadi
Undergraduate student at International Program of International Relations, Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta

As reported by Tempo (Ernis, 2020), the death rate from COVID-19 in Indonesia has exceeded 13,000 as of Friday, July 3, 2020, almost four times the official confirmed number of deaths published by the Ministry of Health. The public address by the Official Indonesian Spokesperson for COVID-19 failed to reflect the real number of COVID-19 cases. However, the receipt of accurate data from the government is a basic human right, especially in the context of a pandemic when our health security is vital.

Accurate and correct data will make people more alert; it will also help the government and regional apparatus focus their limited resources on targeting outbreaks and supplying necessities at the most critical points. Correct data will also guide researchers to build epidemic curves, calculate effective spread ratios (Rt), and conduct various analyses to suppress the outbreak rate and cope with wider impacts on public health, which will also have a positive impact on the economy. In addition, data transparency is also a legal obligation of the government according to National Law No. 14/2008 regarding Public Information Openness (Indonesian Government, 2008).

During this crisis, the world needs to collaborate on public health policy, which is data-driven. In addition, the fact that virus transmitters could be asymptomatic was terrifying because it raises the possibility for us to be infected by people with or without symptoms (Schwalbe, 2020). These asymptomatic phenomena were affecting the data-driven policy-making, because the obstacle was the minimum swab testing and tracking for the vulnerable, which would not be noted by official statistics.

The lack of a tracing system in public health is the biggest threat, while the mortality rate keeps increasing. The number of infected people exponentially increases in tragic calculation. According to the datasets from the World Bank (World Bank, 2020), the critical impact of COVID-19 is multidimensional, including economic activity, education, technology, and the whole human life. Creating a daily report case such as the one issued by the WHO (World Health Organization, 2020) should be followed by member states. The state is responsible to make their data accessible for each of their citizens because many infected people are dying, more than the reported cases.

The development of the discourse of human rights issues bring us to the non-traditional security concept called human security. This concept criticizes the essence of the traditional concept that only focused on military security tools, which is irrelevant to the status quo (Oratmangun, 2003). In the context of the pandemic, the biggest concern would be on health security, where people have rights to secure their health as part of the basic right to life.

In the digital era, much information is being pushed at us, whether it is correct or a hoax. However, to fight against COVID-19 is to fight the society about how destructive the virus is. Apart from scientific debate, we are still facing a number of conspiracy theories and false information in regard to the COVID-19 outbreak. It takes a lot of energy and synergism among all elements to fight senseless information because it violates our human right to secure our health.

While government officials engage in their long bureaucratic process of decision making, the private sector has already acted amidst our society. In Africa, the private sector led many actions, particularly public health, sanitary risk, and economic development (Madani, 2020). In Indonesia, the official government seems not ready yet to declare the new normal policy as relaxation of PSBB (large-scale social restriction). Otherwise, economic strategy by the Indonesian government is premature, while the private sector keeps operating to push our economic condition forward (Nurbaiti, 2020).

Nevertheless, in Indonesia, the lack of seriousness was showed by several official government figures, especially by the Minister of Health of the Republic of Indonesia, Terawan Agus Putranto. His several statements to mass media led to denial behavior by society (Garjito, 2020). A statement in early April 2020 by Head of the Disaster Information and Communication Data Center of the National Disaster Management Plan (BNPB), Agus Wibowo, included data from the central government that were different from the reported data of the provincial level, which was worsened by the limited information from the Ministry of Health (Ferdian, 2020). The mismatch of information was proven by joint researchers from 10 national and international universities. This research, which was conducted in Jakarta and published on April 12, 2020, provided that the positive cases should be 32,000, while the BNPB official website reported only 3,000 cases (Ferdiaz, 2020).

With the emergence of Novel Coronavirus, we should learn to be more prepared for all forms of non-traditional threats, especially when it is a terrible outbreak. The world should cooperate on sharing data and information and on scientific research regarding the combat of COVID-19, so that the world public health policy is more data-driven. Moreover, government officials should cooperate with the private sector as the actors in the field of crisis, because it raises strong synergism among all elements.


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