Indonesia’s Virus Cases Top 10,000 Amid Calls to Ramp Up Testing

(Bloomberg) -- Indonesia’s coronavirus cases exceeded 10,000 as infections showed no signs of slowing even with partial lockdowns and travel restrictions in the nation’s main cities.

The number of confirmed cases rose by 347 to 10,118 on Thursday with the death toll jumping to 792, Achmad Yurianto, spokesman for the government task force on Covid-19, told reporters. While the number of people infected in the world’s fourth-most populous nation is fewer than those in China, India and Singapore, it has the highest mortality rate in the region, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Confirmed cases have soared more than six-fold in April alone after the country reported its first cases only in early March. Authorities have imposed stricter social distancing measures in various regions and banned an annual ritual of millions of Muslims traveling to hometowns and villages ahead of the Eid al-Fitr festival. Still officials estimate the disease will infect about 95,000 people before it eases.

Indonesia, a country of almost 270 million people, have tested only 72,351 people so far, despite health experts repeatedly calling for a ramp-up in detection to prevent the spread of the virus in the archipelago. Daily tests have averaged below 3,000 and almost 22,000 people suspected of contracting the virus and exhibiting symptoms are awaiting clinical confirmation, raising the possibility of a spike in confirmed cases.

President Joko Widodo’s order to scale up daily testing to 10,000 may not be realized soon because of the weak diagnostic service system in the country, according to Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia. The official data probably reflected only about 20-30% of the actual infections and deaths in the country, he wrote on Twitter.

The pandemic has weakened the outlook for Southeast Asia’s largest economy with growth this year forecast to more than halve to 2.3%. Widodo’s government has in recent weeks announced a string of emergency measures, worth about $28 billion, aimed at supporting a health system and the economy.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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