Coronavirus pandemic

Indonesia reports highest daily surge with 107 new cases

A woman being sprayed with disinfectant before entering a local government office in Surabaya, Indonesia, on Monday. The country now has a total of 686 recorded infections.
A woman being sprayed with disinfectant before entering a local government office in Surabaya, Indonesia, on Monday. The country now has a total of 686 recorded infections. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Indonesia recorded 107 new coronavirus cases yesterday, 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 across South-east Asia. The number of recovered patients remained at 30, as reported on Monday.

Mr Achmad Yurianto, a 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 healthcare 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 new cases, or 70, while the total confirmed cases in the capital stood at 424.

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

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

A number of regions have also reported the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.

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

Meanwhile, the authorities on Monday opened the 1,800-bed Covid-19 Emergency Hospital - repurposed over four days from the athletes' village that had originally been built for the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.

The new facility follows an announcement by President Joko Widodo last week that rapid testing will be widely available, relieving severe bottlenecks at Jakarta hospitals that blew out waiting times for the tests by nearly a month.

And by next week, the government hopes to complete a 400 billion rupiah (S$37 million) quarantine facility on an island south of Batam to house overseas arrivals who test positive for the coronavirus.

Dr Erlang Samoedro, 45, secretary-general of the Indonesia Society of Respirologists, who will be working in the Covid-19 Emergency Hospital's pulmonary care unit, said he expected the number of infections to rise dramatically as testing expands.

"When you test, you find new cases," he told The Straits Times.

• Additional reporting by Jeffrey Hutton

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2020, with the headline 'Indonesia reports highest daily surge with 107 new cases'. Print Edition | Subscribe