COVID-19: Indonesia now worst-hit country in Southeast Asia with record 407 new cases

JAKARTA (CNA) – The number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose to 5,923 yesterday, a senior health official said, making it the worst-hit country in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia reported a record 407 new cases, Achmad Yurianto, the Health Ministry’s director-general for infectious disease told a press briefing.

Meanwhile, the death toll went up by 24 yesterday, bringing the total number to 520. The number of recovered patients increased by 59, with a total of 607.

The Philippines, which earlier had the most number of cases in the region, recorded 218 new cases yesterday, bringing the total to 5,878.

Indonesia has seen a significant rise in the number of new cases over the last two weeks.

A man crosses Thamrin Street usually busy with traffic at the main business district during rush hour time in Jakarta, Indonesia, yesterday. PHOTO: AP

On April 5, Indonesia had less than 2,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Experts attributed the rise to more aggressive testing.

Less than 10,000 tests had been conducted on April 5, more than a month after Indonesia recorded its first two cases on March 2.

Since then, more than 30,000 additional tests have been conducted.

But the number of tests Indonesia conducted is still considered to be insufficient for a country with a population of 260 million, experts said.

Malaysia’s test rate is around 2,700 per one million population while Singapore’s test rate is over 12,000 per one million population.

Yurianto, who is also the spokesman for the government’s pandemic task force, said Indonesia is keen on improving its test rate and aims to conduct more than 10,000 tests a day.

“The President (Joko Widodo) instructed for testing to be conducted more massively and contact tracing done more aggressively,” he told a press briefing yesterday.

“Today, Indonesia has the capacity to test 17,900 samples (per day). We will continue to increase the capacity,” he added. More than one sample is sometimes required for each COVID-19 test.

Yurianto said 34 laboratories are now working to test samples taken from COVID-19 patients and suspects. In early March, there was just one in the whole country.

Indonesia’s COVID-19 cases could exceed 100,000, Professor Wiku Adisasmito, an expert with the government pandemic task force, said on Thursday.

Indonesia has one of the highest COVID-19 fatality rates in the world, between eight per cent and nine per cent.