Coronavirus: Indonesia reports highest daily surge in cases - total now at 686 and 55 deaths

People wearing protective face masks in Jakarta, Indonesia, on March 23, 2020.
People wearing protective face masks in Jakarta, Indonesia, on March 23, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA - Indonesia recorded 107 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday (March 24), its largest daily increase, raising the total to 686 infections in the world's fourth most populous nation.

The country also saw seven more deaths, bringing the overall fatalities to 55, the highest tally in South-east Asia.

The number of recovered patients remained 30 as reported on Monday.

Mr Achmad Yurianto, government spokesman on Covid-19 management, said that the government is continuing with rapid tests for those who might have been in contact with coronavirus patients, as well as healthcare staff treating the patients in hospitals.

"The health care staff, including those in hospital front offices, must be tested because they are vulnerable to infections," he said.

Indonesia has received 150,000 testing kits from China and plans to procure more in order to test around one million people.

Mr Achmad added that after getting more test kits, the government will carry out tests based on regions, prioritising the high-risk ones based on its mapping such as in South Jakarta.

Between 600,000 and 700,000 people are at risk of infection in Indonesia, home to nearly 270 million people.

Jakarta represented around 65 per cent of the overall new cases, or 70, while the total confirmed cases in the capital stood at 424.

The outbreak is expected to peak in May during the Ramadan fasting month, officials have said. The fasting month starts at the end of April.

Amid the continued spike in fresh cases, the country has grappled with insufficient hospitals, healthcare workers and medical equipment staff to treat patients.

 
 
 

At least seven doctors infected by the coronavirus from their patients have died of Covid-19, while another doctor has died from a heart attack due to fatigue while preparing for health facilities to treat Covid-19 patients, according to Indonesian Doctors Association.

A number of regions have also reported the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) to be used by health workers.

Covid-19 task force chief  Doni Monardo said his team has received 70,000 sets of PPE from local producers and will distribute them to hospitals nationwide.

The authorities have also deployed the athletes village in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, to isolate and treat Covid-19 patients. The facility, which can house around 3,000 patients so far, has accepted 71 patients as of Tuesday, Mr Achmad said.

Meanwhile, President Joko Widodo on Tuesday announced a set of incentives valued at trillions of rupiah to minimise the social and economic impact of the Covid-19.

He also called on governors to allocate their regional budgets to provide social assistance to the most vulnerable groups in the communities, such as drivers and street vendors. He viewed that the aid is necessary to cushion the impact of the applied social distancing measures by way of work and study from home.

He also said that the Financial Service Authority (OJK) will loosen lending rules for micro and small-scale enterprises with a credit below 10 billion rupiah (S$883,000) affected by the pandemic.

"Suspension of instalment payment up to one year and reduced interest rate will be provided for them," he said in a teleconference with governors of 34 provinces from presidential palace in Jakarta.

 
 

Similar arrangements will also be offered to other vulnerable groups from motorbike taxi drivers to fishermen, who depend on credit to buy vehicles or working tools, Mr Joko said.

Education Minister Nadiem Makarim announced on Tuesday that the national examinations for around eight million students from elementary to senior high schools will be scrapped this year amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

"The prime reason is the Education and Culture Ministry's basic principle that the safety and health of our students, their families, grandfathers and grandmothers matter most," he said.