Indonesia coronavirus outbreak expected to peak in May with more than 1,000 deaths: Gov't expert

A photo of Prof Wiku Adisasmito, head of the expert team of Indonesia’s Covid-19 task force. PHOTO: INDONESIA'S COVID-19 TASK FORCE

JAKARTA - The Covid-19 outbreak in Indonesia may peak in May, with around 100,000 cases and a final death toll of over 1,000 people, said a senior official in the fight against the coronavirus.

The projection is based on mathematical modelling of different scenarios by various groups of experts, said Prof Wiku Adisasmito, head of the expert team of Indonesia's Covid-19 task force, in an interview with The Straits Times last night.

Fatality estimates reflect the moderate containment strategy Indonesia has adopted.

"If we use more rigorous intervention (containment strategy), the cases may be lower," Prof Wiku said, adding that his taskforce is currently developing an integrated data collection and management system for Covid-19.

Judging by the unfolding situation, the death toll "may be more than 1,000 at the peak," Prof Wiku said, adding the government was doing its utmost to avoid this outcome.

Jakarta, which accounts for about half of the country's confirmed cases , has adopted large-scale social distancing measures since April 10 to curb coronavirus infections and deaths. Several satellite towns around Jakarta adopted the same measures on Wednesday.

Those breaching the rules, which include a ban on gatherings of more than five people, a reduction in the number of passengers in a private car by half its full capacity and no dine-in at restaurants, face a fine of up to 100 million rupiah (S$9,000) and up to one year in prison.

Prof Wiku however has expressed concerns over the noticeable increase in people out in public and traffic on the streets.

He stressed that it is the responsibility of local governments to implement and enforce tough measures in their areas of jurisdiction and added that local government leaders must also step up campaigns to get people to regularly wash their hands and wear a mask when they leave home.

Indonesia has been criticised for not applying harsh enough restraints on people's mobility, risking wider spread of new infections.

The government has yet to issue a ban on the annual mudik, the hometown journey for Hari Raya Idul Fitri, which falls in late May this year, despite mounting calls to do so.

When asked about this weak mudik policy, Prof Wiku said: "It is too early to say the government is not banning mudik. We are not even in the Ramadhan (fasting month) yet, but everyone is already talking about mudik."

This is the first time an official has hinted that the government may go ahead and ban mudik, although a final decision will not be taken until at least a week from now.

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