Infections rise to over 20,000 . . .
COVID-19 cases in Indonesia have surged in the month of May, reaching the grim landmark of 20,000 cases in just 21 days, as opposed to the 60 days it took to reach the first 10,000 cases. On May 20 and 21, the country reported its two highest consecutive daily case increases of 693 and 973 respectively. The death rate among Indonesian COVID-19 cases are also the highest in Southeast Asia, officially at just over 1300. However, civil society groups question the government’s reported death toll, contending that the real figure surpasses 3,500.
Battle far from over . . .
The rising pace of infections will likely dampen government plans to ease the large-scale social restriction policies (known as Pembatasan Sosial Berskala Besar in Bahasa or PSBB) currently in place. Before the spike in cases, President Joko Widodo considered easing PSBB social restrictions despite the dismay expressed from public health experts. In contrast, the capital of Jakarta where the epicentre of infections are taking place, announced this week that its own partial lockdown will be in place until June 4. Experts estimate that nearly 60 per cent of Jakarta’s residents have stayed at home, but compliance rates will need to be closer to 80 per cent before COVID-19 transmission slows significantly. The city has been proactive in sanctioning approximately 8,000 PSBB violators, including both individuals and businesses.
Religious holiday and coronavirus . . .
Indonesia’s battle against COVID-19 is to undergo a major test as the fasting month of Ramadan culminates with Idul Fitri (also called Eid al-Fitr) celebrations this weekend. Traditionally Indonesians visit family and gather at mosques for prayer during the holiday season. Although President Jokowi announced a ban on hometown travel ahead of this holiday in April, at the start of May his government relaxed some restrictions, allowing those with medical documents demonstrating a negative COVID-19 diagnosis permission to travel. Since the announcement, reports have surfaced about crowded airports in violation of social distancing guidelines, and scandals involving the online sale of false health certificates for travel. Government leaders and influential religious organizations have repeatedly urged Indonesians not to travel and to conduct prayers at home. While holiday festivities will be more subdued this year, the impact of holiday travel and the preventative measures to stop coronavirus transmissions will only be revealed in the coming weeks.