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Many Indonesians don't believe Covid-19 exists: Health official

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With people challenging health protocols, government forms 'behavioural change' units to raise awareness

JAKARTA: Many Indonesians do not believe Covid-19 exists and are challenging the need for restrictions, said National Covid-19 task force head Doni Monardo, quoting a recent Health Ministry survey.

The country yesterday reported its biggest daily rise in infections with 4,465 new cases, taking its total to 257,388. There were another 140 deaths, taking the total to 9,977, the highest in South-east Asia.

Indonesia has now formed "behavioural change" units. They consist of members of the community, the military and local administrations, and seek to raise public awareness about the dangers of Covid-19.

Mr Doni said the initiative would be tested first in Jakarta, a hotbed of coronavirus contagion, before being taken to other regions.

At least five behavioural change units comprising 100 volunteers have been deployed in five sub-districts of the capital to inform people about the virus and reinforce the need to adhere to health protocols.

"If the initiative works, we will develop it in other regions as well," Mr Doni said during a meeting with the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

He did not reveal the details of the Health Ministry survey which he cited during the meeting.

"If some people deny the presence of Covid-19 (and neglect health measures), transmission will continue," he said.

Some Indonesian citizens, including public figures, have endorsed conspiracy theories about the pandemic.

Bali-based musician Jerinx, for example, claimed that the recorded number of Covid-19 infections was being manipulated to be larger than it actually was.

He has also ignored the authorities' calls for social distancing and mask wearing, including while participating in a rally in late July to protest against Covid-19 testing requirements for travel to Bali.

The Bali police have named the musician a suspect for defamation after he accused the Indonesian Medical Association of being "the WHO's (World Health Organisation's) flunkey".


Meanwhile, Malaysia's cases returned to triple digits after recording 147 infections yesterday, as well as three new deaths.

This brings the total number of infections in the country to 10,505 and the death toll to 133.

Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said that all but four of the new caseswere locally transmitted.

Sabah again recorded the highest number of cases with 110 infections among Malaysians and 24 cases among non-citizens.

Kedah had five local cases and Selangor had two, while Kelantan and Kuala Lumpur had a case each.

In India, coronavirus infections surged again, a day after falling to their lowest figure in almost a month.

There were 83,347 new cases announced yesterday, with 1,085 deaths.

India, with a population of about 1.4 billion, is consistently reporting the world's highest daily tally of infections as it grapples with overstretched health services in the effort to control the pandemic.

Its 5.6 million infections rank second only to the United States.

More than 90,000 people have died of the disease in India.  - JAKARTA POST, THE STAR, REUTERS