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Highlights in the media today: Indonesia’s COVID-19 actual death toll might be three times higher, Questions raised over health professional involvement in pandemic response, Income gap projected to worsen during pandemic

The actual COVID-19 death toll in Indonesia could be three times the reported figure, Griffith University Australia epidemiologist Dicky Budiman said in reference to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of a COVID-19 death.

According to the WHO, a COVID-19 death is defined for monitoring purposes as a death resulting from a clinically compatible illness in a probable or confirmed COVID-19 case unless there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be related to COVID-19, for example, trauma.

Dicky said that Indonesia’s more than 10,000 deaths were only confirmed cases, while deaths among probable or suspected cases had yet to be counted. Indonesia has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths of any ASEAN country and the third highest among Asian countries.

As of September 28 16:10 (GMT+7), Indonesia had confirmed 278,722 COVID-19 cases, with 206,870 recoveries and 10,473 deaths.

The resignation of Akmal Taher, one of Indonesia’s top doctors, from the COVID-19 Task Force has prompted questions as to whether the government is seriously involving health experts in its pandemic response.

Akmal indicated his disagreement with the current pandemic response measures when he expressed his doubts about vaccines being developed soon on Saturday (September 26). He said that it was too early for the government to start talking about vaccine availability, as it could result in complacency in adhering to health protocols.

The COVID-19 Task Force, according to a list released in April, has 72 experts in fields ranging from medicine, public health and medical device technology to laboratory diagnostics and law.

According to three expert team members from different fields who requested anonymity, probably only three out of 10 suggestions were heard. The government also ignored their advice on postponing regional elections.

Another expert said that discussions were reactive as they were centered on issues that generated buzz among the public.

The economic crisis unleashed by the pandemic will deepen the income gap as some sectors and income groups may recover sooner than others, economists have said, describing this phenomenon as a “K-shaped recovery”.

Mandiri Institute Head Teguh Yudo Wicaksono said that a K-shaped recovery highlighted the divergent experiences of individuals during the pandemic, as some workers were able to work from home and continue with their jobs, while others did not have such privileges.

The Gini ratio rose at the start of the outbreak in March to 0.381, from 0.380 in September last year, as the gap between the haves and the haves-not slightly widened amid rising poverty levels and job losses.

The country will face a deepening income gap between white-collar and blue-collar workers as some economic sectors that employed more high-skilled workers would recover much sooner compared with economic sectors that employed low-skilled workers, Universitas Indonesia (UI) Rector Ari Kuncoro said.

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