In July, Indonesia recorded its highest daily numbers of new coronavirus cases, making it the epicentre of the global pandemic, ahead of India and Brazil. The daily peak of 55,000 cases in mid-July, though shocking, only represented cases confirmed by PCR testing and reported by the government in its national tally.

For many epidemiologists and other observers of Indonesia’s pandemic over the past one and half years, this surge was no surprise. Experts have long warned that Covid-19 cases and deaths in Indonesia are vastly undercounted and underreported and have expressed concerns about data transparency.

Volunteer organisations are among those seeking to provide a more complete picture of the state of the escalating health crisis in Indonesia. One of the most prominent is LaporCovid-19, comprised of scientists, public health experts and journalists. Established in early 2020, with a particular focus on the collection of data through an innovative crowdsourcing platform, the organisation regularly lobbies government for greater transparency in its pandemic response, and for equity in the vaccination program. Last weekend, LaporCovid-19 were joint recipients of the Tasrif Award from the Indonesian Journalists Alliance (AJI), for their brave coverage of the pandemic in the face of opposition.

What motivates this group of experts and volunteers to challenge the government? What are the implications for Indonesia if it continues to get the numbers wrong?

In Talking Indonesia this week, Jemma Purdey talks to Dr Irma Hidayana, a public health expert and co-founder of LaporCovid-19.

The Talking Indonesia podcast is co-hosted by Dr Dave McRae from the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute, Dr Jemma Purdey from Monash University, Dr Annisa Beta from the University of Melbourne, and Dr Charlotte Setijadi from the Singapore Management University.

Look out for a new Talking Indonesia podcast every fortnight. Catch up on previous episodes here, subscribe via iTunes or listen via your favourite podcasting app.

LaporCovid-19 link: https://laporcovid19.org/

Fundraising campaigns to support of Indonesia's pandemic crisis: https://australiaindonesia.com/coronavirus/fundraisers/

Image: Ahmad Tri Hawaari

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