Dentists in Indonesia are dying from COVID-19
JAKARTA, Indonesia: The Indonesian Medical Association has confirmed that 24 medical professionals have died in the country from COVID-19, six of whom were dentists. Not all of those who died were working on the front line in the battle against the illness. The government’s COVID-19 response team has called on the health ministry to protect doctors and dentists by advising them to close their practices.
According to the Jakarta Post, Doni Monardo, head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 among doctors and medical workers was increasing. During a virtual meeting of the House of Representatives on 6 April, Doni said: “More than 20 of our doctors have died [from COVID-19]. Some of them were apparently not on the front line. Some of them were dentists and ENTs.” He said that the BNPB had asked the health ministry to instruct dentists and otolaryngologists to close their practices for the time being. “If they do practise, it should only be for patients who are seriously [ill],” he urged.
The Indonesian Dental Association (PDGI) has not advised dentists in the country to close their practices or to postpone non-emergency treatment, unlike national dental associations in a score of other countries, such as China, Pakistan, India, Canada, Italy and the U.S. Instead, it has urged dentists—particularly those aged over 60—to reduce their working hours and has asked the public not to visit their dentist during the outbreak unless they require urgent care.
Dr Sri Hananto Seno, chair of the PDGI, acknowledged to the newspaper that dental procedures leave dentists and dental hygienists particularly vulnerable to contracting the illness. Hananto said that most dentists had heeded the advice and that only around 30% of dentists in the Jakarta area were still practising in hospitals in order to treat emergency cases.
Indonesia had only conducted 450 SARS-CoV-2 tests by 6 March—significantly fewer than other South East Asian nations—and the country was slow to report any confirmed cases of the illness. This had led to suspicions from within the international community that the government of the populous archipelago was not carrying out enough tests and that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was spreading unchecked.
By 16 April, there were 5,136 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Indonesia and 469 people had died from the illness, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.