Indonesian President calls for more testing as deaths, infections rise, Latest World News - The New Paper

Indonesian President calls for more testing as deaths, infections rise

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JAKARTA: Faced with a rising death toll from the coronavirus and a big jump in infections, Indonesia's President yesterday called for testing to be stepped up immediately in the world's fourth most populous country.

Less than three weeks since the country of more than 260 million announced its first case of the virus, its death toll has reached 25 - higher than in any other South-east Asian country.

The number of infections in Indonesia jumped by 82 to 309, which together with daily rises of 110 in Malaysia and 60 in Thailand sent the number of reported infections across South-east Asia to nearly 2,200.

"I ask that the number of test kits and the number of test centres be increased, and we get more hospitals involved," President Joko Widodo said.

The presidential palace said both he and his wife had tested negative for Covid-19.

Indonesia has faced criticism from medical workers for a slow start to testing that might have more quickly revealed the scale of the problem in an archipelago that spans an area greater than the continental United States.

Indonesia had carried out only 1,592 tests as of Thursday - only a few hundred more than Cambodia despite having more than 16 times as many people and being far wealthier.

South Korea, which has been praised for testing that has helped to stem its outbreak, has been carrying out an average of more tests every two hours than Indonesia has done in total. It has carried out over 290,000 tests.


In a measure to curb the spread of the virus, Jakarta will suspend all religious gatherings such as Muslim Friday prayers and church services for two weeks.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

A rally of Muslim pilgrims that had already drawn thousands of people to the South Sulawesi province was cancelled under pressure from local authorities after a similar event in Malaysia led to hundreds of infections.

After resisting the closure of the event and stating "we are more afraid of God" than the coronavirus on Wednesday, organiser Mustari Bahranuddin said he would cancel the rally.

The Philippines, where 17 people have died of the virus, said it was banning all foreign visitors. More than half of the country's 107 million population is under a month-long quarantine.

Thailand said yesterday that all arrivals would need to present medical certificates to show they do not have coronavirus. - REUTERS