Indonesia In Trouble: Under-reporting, Weak Political Will And Fatalism

Indonesia is expected to be the next regional epicentre for Covid-19.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 – Indonesia marked a new milestone yesterday with more than 2,000 people confirmed positive for Covid-19. 191 have already lost their lives to the disease, while 150 patients have since recovered.

However, the governor of Jakarta, Anies Baswedan, and his counterpart in West Java, have expressed concern to the Jakarta Post that the numbers of infections and deaths in the city due to coronavirus have been severely under-reported.

They believe that the actual numbers are significantly higher than those released by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s central administration.

One of the indicators is the number of burials. Almost 4,400 burials in Jakarta were recorded last month, 40 per cent higher than any month in the past year.

“I’m struggling to find another reason than unreported Covid-19 deaths,” Anies said.

At around 9 per cent, Indonesia has one of the highest Covid-19 mortality rates in the world.

According to the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI), some of those who have died include two hospital directors and a dozen doctors.

Despite recently doubling the number of tests conducted, Indonesia has conducted less than 8000 tests. Far less than its regional counterparts.

Aside from the state of emergency imposed by Jakarta as well as curfews in several regions, Jokowi’s has been reluctant to to impose tough quarantine measures across the country. He has stated concern that the poor would be vulnerable to the economic consequences of such measures.

Muslims across the country are also about to begin the annual exodus or “mudik” as it is known, prior to the Islamic holiday Idul Fitri. Millions are expected to travel back to their hometowns.

Despite urgent concerns that the virus will spread to other parts of the country through this massive movement of people, Jokowi’s government has rejected recommendations for a travel ban.

The disease has already been detected in 32 of Indonesia’s 34 provinces.

A recent study from the national intelligence agency indicated that the country will reach its peak in July, with more than 106,000 infected.

According to its projections, more than 27,000 positive cases are expected in April and almost 100,000 at the end of May.

In February, the country’s health minister had previously attributed the earlier low Covid-19 numbers to prayer. Now, with thousands of cases expected to overwhelm fragile systems, healthcare workers are bracing for deaths among their ranks by declaring that “God will decide”.

The Indonesian government-mandated Task Force for COVID-19 has launched a website to serve as the official entry point for all questions related to COVID-19 in the country.

This week also saw the establishment of an observation and containment facility on Galang Island to handle the quarantine of Indonesians returning from abroad who are showing symptoms of infection.

The facility, which is operational today, is equipped with 360 isolation beds, 20 ICU beds, and 30 non-ICU beds.

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