Indonesia Ramps Up Virus Testing as New Infections Surge

Indonesia’s government is ramping up its coronavirus testing capacity and expanding the partial lockdown to areas outside the capital, after facing criticism for having one of the region’s lowest testing rates per capita.

President Joko Widodo said the country will increase its testing capacity by 9,000 samples per day while regulators extended stricter social distancing measures, which includes closing offices, a ban on gatherings of more than five people and limiting transportation services to some satellite cities outside Jakarta to contain the spread of the deadly disease.

The world’s fourth most populous nation has so far only tested around 27,000 people out of its 270 million population, according to the data from Ministry of Health.

“I want us to be able to test more than 10,000 on daily basis,” Jokowi, as the president is known, said ahead of a cabinet meeting.

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Hidden Hotspot

The government predicted the pandemic may infect as many as 95,000 people by the end of next month before easing. Jokowi has rejected calls to lock down cities and regions to fight the virus, saying such harsh steps would hurt the poor the most.

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Indonesia has been criticized for not testing enough, which can lead to the government underestimating the severity of the situation. Even with the accelerating number of infections, the country has only reported 4,241 cases. That compares with 4,648 in the Philippines which has less than half of its population.

The number of total Covid-19 infections passed 4,000 on Sunday after the biggest daily jump of 399. The country also reported 373 fatalities, the highest number of deaths in the region after China, according to the government data.

“Indonesia has become a hot spot,” Dono Widiatmoko, senior lecturer at the College of Heath and Social Care, University of Derby. “The detection rate in the country has been very low, therefore statistically we don’t appear to be one, while the reality is we are already a hotspot.”

— With assistance by Tassia Sipahutar

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