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Coronavirus infections hit record daily high in Indonesia

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More than 1,200 cases prompt experts to call for reversal of easing policies

JAKARTA: Indonesia posted a record number of infections yesterday, sparking calls from health experts to slam the brakes on easing restrictions.

Last week, the capital Jakarta opened mosques for the first time in nearly three months, as its governor announced the gradual reopening of shuttered offices, restaurants, shopping malls and tourist attractions.

Similar easing measures are happening across the vast archipelago, home to nearly 270 million people, as the government rolled out a "new normal" policy aimed at heading off a collapse in South-east Asia's biggest economy.

But the moves come as Indonesia records a surge in cases, with the one-day toll jumping to a new record of 1,241 infections yesterday.

The country's Covid-19 task force chalked up the rise to more effective monitoring.

"The increase in new infections is the result of aggressive tracing," task force spokesman Achmad Yurianto told reporters.

"This proves that (tracing) is revealing more confirmed cases," he added.

Officially, Indonesia has more than 34,000 cases of Covid-19 and 1,959 deaths.

But with one of the world's lowest testing rates, the country's real toll is widely believed to be much higher.

Health experts warned that the country could see a spike in infections after the holy fasting month, and called for a reversal of easing policies.

"Regions that are planning to lift restrictions, or are already doing so, should revisit that decision," said Padjadjaran University epidemiologist Panji Fortuna Hadisoemarto.

"If the number of cases keep increasing in Jakarta for the next few days, I think the administration has to pull the emergency brake and bring back restrictions," he added.

TWO NEW CASES

In contrast, Malaysia, which also further eased restriction yesterday, saw only two new infections.

This is the third day in a row where the number of new cases are in single digits, and the lowest figure since the movement control order phase began.

Malaysia's figure now stands at 8,338 cases.

There was one more death, and the country's toll is now 118.

Malls reopened, traffic jams returned and interstate travel resumed in Malaysia yesterday in the further easing of restrictions to revive an economy hard hit by the pandemic.

Barber shops and beauty salons were also reopening to customers after having to remain shut for nearly three months.

"Thank God the government decided to ease movement control order restrictions, so we can go out and get our hair cut and become handsome again," joked Mr Abdul Rahman Mohamed after his trim.

Malaysia's international borders will remain closed for now, as will entertainment venues such as nightclubs and theme parks. Contact sports and gatherings remain banned.

Malaysia's education minister said schools would reopen in stages from June 24.

The Philippines recorded 10 deaths and 740 infections, the highest single-day increase in cases in a week.

It now has 1,027 deaths and 23,732 cases.

Thailand reported four new cases and no new deaths , bringing its total to 3,125 infections, of which 58 were fatalities. - REUTERS, THE STAR

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