President Joko wants wider coronavirus testing as Indonesia cases top 75,000

A healthcare worker collects a swab sample from a civil servant to be tested for the coronavirus in Jakarta on July 2, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - Indonesian President Joko Widodo wants to ramp up coronavirus testing by 50 per cent to 30,000 daily as infections exceed 75,000 in South-east Asia's most populous nation.

Mr Joko instructed his ministers on Monday (July 13) to boost the nationwide testing capacity from a previous target of 20,000 a day by opening more laboratories especially in eight areas that include the capital region of Jakarta and neighbouring West and East Java.

"I want us to intensify the testing, tracing and treatment with priorities in eight provinces," he told members of his Cabinet before the meeting.

The president also said the coronavirus outbreak in Indonesia is expected to peak in August or September, the state news agency Antara reported on Monday, two to three months later than earlier projected.

"Based on data the peak is (now) estimated to be in August or September, that's the latest estimate I received, but if we don't do something the numbers could be different," Jokowi said as cited by Antara.

A government adviser had said in April that Covid-19 cases were likely to peak in May or June, with the number of infections expected to reach around 95,000.

Mr Joko said he was pushing his ministers to work harder to control the spread of the virus, which had infected 76,981 people in the Southeast Asian country as of Monday, with 3,656 fatalities, the highest in East Asia outside China.

A significant new cluster of infections emerged last week at a military training centre in West Java, where 1,262 cadets and trainers have tested positive for the disease.

Last month Mr Joko said he was ready to reshuffle ministers or even disband government agencies that he feels have not done enough to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, the government is considering sanctions for people who are violating health protocols such as not wearing masks in public places.

Jakarta had extended a transition period to exit from a partial lockdown by two weeks to the middle of this month, as the city continued to report hundreds of new coronavirus cases a day.

It posted a record daily spike on Sunday.

The pandemic has hit Indonesia harder than the 1997 Asian financial crisis, battering small and big businesses alike, Mr Joko said last month.

On July 9, when the country reported the highest daily number of cases, the president called the situation a "red signal".

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