Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus cases exceed half million

JAKARTA (AP) — Indonesia’s confirmed COVID-19 cases breached half a million yesterday as the government of the world’s fourth most populous nation scrambled to procure vaccines to help it win the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Indonesia’s Health Ministry announced that new daily infections rose by 4,442 to bring the country’s total to 502,110, the most in Southeast Asia and second in Asia only to India’s 9.1 million confirmed cases. It also reported a total of 16,002 deaths from the coronavirus.

President Joko Widodo said at a Cabinet meeting that his administration is preparing mass vaccinations. He urged his ministers to ensure the safe and smooth distribution of vaccines across the vast archipelago nation, home to more than 270 million people.

The government is making all-out efforts to secure vaccines through bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

Indonesia’s economy, the largest in Southeast Asia, has fallen into recession for the first time since the Asian financial crisis more than two decades ago. It contracted at a 3.5 per cent annual pace in July-September, its second consecutive quarterly contraction.

The government has yet to decide which COVID-19 vaccine to use.

“I’m not saying which brand just yet, but as long as it is on the World Health Organization (WHO) list, we are going to use it,” Widodo said when he visited a health centre in West Java’s Bogor city last Thursday.

Indonesia is already cooperating with China’s Sinovac in phase three clinical trials of its vaccine candidate, with tests being carried out on 1,620 volunteers in West Java’s Bandung city since August.