JAKARTA - Indonesia recorded another 20 deaths from the coronavirus on Thursday (March 26), its largest single-day jump, bringing the death toll to 78.
The country has the the highest number of fatalities from the virus in South-east Asia
Indonesia, the world's fourth-most populous nation continued to see infections surge with 103 new cases on Thursday, marking the third straight day that fresh cases have exceeded 100. Total infections now stand at 893.
Four more people recovered, resulting in a total of 35 patients who recovered.
Mr Achmad Yurianto, the government spokesman on Covid-19 management, said that while most of the new cases were from Jakarta, South Sulawesi had a significant number of new cases.
"In South Sulawesi, there were many new cases - 14 people. We need to pay attention to the situation," he said in the daily press briefing.
South Sulawesi only recorded 13 cases and one death as of Wednesday. It now has 27 infections, while the number of fatalities remain the same.
Last week, the South Sulawesi town of Gowa, around 1½ hours' drive from the provincial capital Makassar, was scheduled to host a religious gathering - the Ijtima Jamaah Tabligh - attended by thousands of Muslims from many parts of the country as well as abroad.
Although the event was later cancelled due to a local government ban, more than 8,000 Muslim pilgrims, including some 400 from other countries including those in South-east Asia, had already gathered in the town. These pilgrims were then escorted to Makassar airport and seaport by police and officials.
A similar event had taken place in Malaysia two weeks before. It attracted around 16,000 people and resulted in more than 500 coronavirus infections among its attendees.
The government has called for Indonesians to apply social distancing measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak in the vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands.
The Health Ministry has estimated that between 600,000 and 700,000 of its nearly 270 million population are at risk of being infected with the virus.
Indonesia has been criticised for not conducting enough tests for the virus, with the country reporting its first case only on March 2. The authorities hope to carry out around one million rapid tests to detect more infections.
Experts say the outbreak is expected to peak in May during the Ramadan fasting month, which begins at the end of April.
With the surge in cases, Indonesia has grappled with too few hospitals and healthcare workers, and inadequate medical equipment to treat patients.
Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan said on Thursday that so far 50 medical workers in 24 hospitals across the city were infected by the coronavirus, and another two have died from it.
"They are at the forefront (of managing the Covid-19 outbreak), work the hardest, do the heaviest duty and are exposed to the greatest risk," he said.
He added that the city's government would provide them with proper support, including personal protective equipment and accommodation in a hotel.
Jakarta, a city of around 10 million, is now considered the epicentre of the outbreak in Indonesia.
More than half of the new cases reported on Thursday, and 15 of the 20 new deaths, were from the capital city. The overall tally for the city is 515 cases and 46 deaths, both more than half that recorded nationally.
According to the Jakarta Post, a number of families in Jakarta have travelled to their hometowns, including Wonogiri in Central Java province.
Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo has demanded that its residents working in Jakarta should not return home, while those still living in the province should not go to the capital.