Coronavirus: Indonesian deaths climb to 19, highest death toll in South-east Asia

Indonesian passengers wearing face masks on a Trans Jakarta bus on March 18, 2020. The country announced 55 new coronavirus cases, taking the total to 227 in the South-east Asian nation and marking the biggest daily rise in positive cases. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Indonesia on Wednesday (March 18) reported 14 more deaths from the coronavirus, making it the South-east Asian country with the highest number of fatalities.

The death toll now stands at 19, ahead of the Philippines, which has recorded 14 deaths so far.

The spike in the number of deaths was due to hospitals not reporting fatalities from March 12 to 17, said Mr Achmad Yurianto, the government spokesman for the management of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

"We've rechecked the cases this morning and coordinated with all hospitals treating the patients... We've updated the data," he said in a press briefing.

Capital city Jakarta has the highest number of deaths so far at 12, while Central Java has reported two deaths. Another five provinces - Bali, Banten, West Java, East Java and North Sumatra - have recordeded one death each, he added.

The number of confirmed cases also surged to 227, with 55 fresh cases, the highest single-day jump of new infections since the country announced its first two cases on March 2.

Mr Achmad further said that the new cases, whose increase he described as "a significant jump", came mostly from the capital (30 cases), followed by West Java (12 cases) and Banten (four cases). Other confirmed cases were found in other provinces - Central Java, Lampung, North Sumatra, Riau, Yogyakarta, East Kalimantan.

Mr Achmad, who is also the Health Ministry's director-general for disease control and prevention, noted that the number of confirmed cases will likely "jump significantly" in the next few days as the authorities are intensifying their contact-tracing efforts and people are now more aware of the pandemic, making them more likely to get themselves tested.

Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation with around 267 million people, had as of Tuesday tested more than 2,300 samples from those suspected of being infected by the virus.

In addition to 132 referral hospitals nationwide, the government has appointed 109 military hospitals, 53 police hospitals and 65 hospitals operated by state-owned enterprises to treat coronavirus patients.

Meanwhile, three private hospitals have committed to deploy around 300 beds to treat virus patients, Mr Achmad said.

Indonesia has also announced that it will suspend its visa-free and visa-on-arrival arrangements for one month from Friday (March 20), as it seeks to contain the virus' spread. This will require all foreigners - including tourists, business people and diplomats - to apply for a visa at Indonesia's overseas missions before travelling to the country.

The country has also banned the entry and transit of foreign nationals who have been in Iran and seven countries in Europe - France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Vatican and the United Kingdom - in the last 14 days. Previous restrictions on travellers from China and South Korea's Daegu city and Gyeongsangbuk-do province remain in place.

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