Indonesia orders ramp up of tests in new coronavirus hot spot in Java

The surge in infections in Surabaya has worried officials.
The surge in infections in Surabaya has worried officials.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - Indonesia will step up coronavirus testing and isolation of suspected patients in East Java, home to the nation's second-largest city and a major industrial hub that's emerged as a new virus hot spot.

President Joko Widodo ordered troops and police to assist local authorities in bolstering efforts to contain a spike in cases in East Java, a province with a population of almost 40 million.

Jokowi, as the President is popularly known, also called on ministers to focus on flattening the virus curve in other regions reporting high rates of new infections.

A ramp up in testing of samples, aggressive tracking of contacts and strict isolation of people under surveillance is needed to combat the pandemic, Mr Joko told a Cabinet meeting in Jakarta on Wednesday (May 27).

A day earlier, the President ordered the deployment of almost 350,000 security personnel to help monitor public transport, shopping malls and tourism sites in cities and regions which have implemented partial lockdowns as officials prepare to reopen South-east Asia's largest economy.

The surge in infections in Surabaya, East Java's capital and Indonesia's second-largest city, has worried officials and on Wednesday prompted the deployment of two mobile laboratories to speed up testing.

Authorities plan to add at least three more such units soon, Indonesia's Covid-19 task force chief Doni Monardo said.

NEW NORMAL

"In the preparation for the new normal, I want you to check the readiness in regions to control this virus," Mr Joko told his Cabinet.

"We are asking for the help of our troops to suppress the curve so that it does not rise again, and to enable sample testing and aggressive tracking of suspected patients."

 
 
 

The number of infections in East Java jumped more than four-fold this month to nearly 4,000, accounting for 17 per cent of the national total, up from 9.4 per cent at the end of April, official data shows.

PT Hanjaya Mandala Sampoerna, a unit of Philip Morris International Inc, closed two of its factories near Surabaya after dozens of workers were infected with Covid-19, including two who died.

Mr Joko also ordered officials to control the return of hundreds of thousands of people to cities after Eid al-Fitr, an annual religious holiday period celebrated by Muslims, saying travellers may potentially trigger a second wave of infections, especially in the Greater Jakarta area.

Authorities in Jakarta, the first major city in the country to enforce large-scale social distancing rules, will monitor the scale of new infections and other epidemiological evidences to decide if it should extend its partial lockdown beyond June 4, Governor Anies Baswedan has said.

Covid-19 cases have soared in Indonesia in recent weeks with the total tally reaching 23,165 on Tuesday and deaths topping 1,400 even with almost 100 million people in the country's most-populous provinces under partial lockdown for much of this month.