Jakarta – The ongoing feud between East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa and Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini aka Risma over how to handle the COVID-19 outbreak in virus-stricken East Java province has erupted again, this time over two mobile polymerase chain reaction (PCR) labs.
The two mobile labs had been loaned by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) for use in Surabaya – the epicenter of the outbreak in the province with 2,495 confirmed cases as of Saturday – but were taken over by the province's COVID-19 task force and sent to Lamongan and Tulungagung regencies instead.
The dispute came to light after a video of Risma speaking over the phone with an East Java administration official went viral on social media on Friday. Risma was apparently furious over the fact that the two PCR labs were not used in Surabaya.
"If you want to boycott [me], this is not how it should be," Risma yelled into the phone. "I will tell everybody about it.
"I can't accept this. I was told I couldn't do my job properly. If someone steals like this, then tell me, who is it who can't do their job properly?"
Risma also claimed that she had personally asked COVID-19 Task Force chief Doni Monardo – who also heads the BNPB – for the mobile labs.
The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) also waded into the conflict, with PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto defending Risma, a PDI-P member, and criticizing the governor for not "considering the scale of priorities and strategic aspects of handling the COVID-19 outbreak in Surabaya."
Khofifah, however, defended the decision to divert the mobile labs elsewhere, saying that Surabaya already had enough testing facilities.
"There are a total of four laboratories in Surabaya. There are also two PCR cars from the State Intelligence Agency. It's more than enough. Other areas that are located far from the labs also have the same urgent needs," she said on Friday as quoted by tempo.co.
East Java Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) acting chief Suban Wahyudiono claimed that the East Java administration had asked the BNPB chief for a total of 15 PCR machines for the province.
"We sent the vehicles to Tulungagung because the regency has the second-highest number of COVID-19 PDP [patients under surveillance] in East Java, with 588 PDP. In fact, in Tulungagung, 172 PDP have died," he said on Friday as quoted by kompas.com.
Nevertheless, on Saturday, the two mobile labs arrived in Surabaya again and were immediately sent off by the local authorities to conduct swab tests in several locations in the city.
"After they came, we conducted tests in Gelora Pancasila, Husada Utama hospital, Soewandhi hospital and Jiwa Menur hospital using the two PCR vehicles from the BNPB," Surabaya's COVID-19 task force spokesperson Febria Rachmanita said on Saturday.
This is not the first time Risma and Khofifah have clashed over how to address the COVID-19 outbreak in the region. In April, the two were in disagreement over whether to enact large-scale social restrictions (PSBB). Earlier this month, Khofifah publicly criticized the Surabaya administration for its "late" response to a cluster of COVID-19 infections at one of tobacco giant PT HM Sampoerna's factories in the city. (trn)