Coronavirus: Indonesia fears up to 700,000 had contact with those infected

Indonesia has estimated the number of people who have had possible contact with Covid-19 suspects to be at more than half a million, as a two-week emergency was declared in its capital Jakarta.

The high-risk group of between 600,000 and 700,000 people are scattered across the country, with South Jakarta being the worst-hit, said Mr Achmad Yurianto, the government spokesman for the management of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Meanwhile, in announcing the emergency in Jakarta, Governor Anies Baswedan urged comp-anies in the 10-million-strong city to allow staff to work from home, with public entertainment shut from Monday and public transport limited.

Indonesia, with a population of 270 million, started the rapid testing yesterday afternoon, President Joko Widodo said.

“We are doing it in areas based on our contact tracing of the (virus) patients. We are going door to door to test people,” Mr Joko said on live national television. “The result of our mapping indicates the hardest-hit area is South Jakarta.” He did not disclose other locations.

Indonesia is catching up with testing of its citizens who might be infected as the government faces mounting criticism for being slow in detecting infections. Indonesia announced its first two cases of the virus on March 2.

There have been several cases where patients with pneumonia were detected to have had the virus only after they died, or just a day prior to their deaths.

Mr Achmad told a media briefing yesterday that the country had 60 fresh cases, bringing the total infections to 369 yesterday.

Total deaths rose by seven to 32, the highest death tally in South-east Asia. Seventeen patients have recovered.

The government had been widely criticised for not doing enough tests, having carried out only 1,592 of them as of Thursday. In comparison, South Korea has carried out over 290,000 tests.

The government has also been struggling to convince Indonesians to curb their movement and practise social distancing.

Mr Joko on Thursday expressed regret that many people took advantage of the work-from-home and study-at-home regime to visit beaches and other tourist sites.


The risk of infection we can no longer say is only at one, two, three, four, five areas (within Jakarta), but it is widespread and can be anywhere… Jakarta is an epicentre.


Meanwhile, a number of mosques in Jakarta yesterday disregarded appeals by Mr Anies to cancel Friday prayers for two weeks to curb the spread of the virus that has killed at least 17 people in the capital city alone.

In Malaysia, all mosques around the country were shut for the first time for the weekly Friday prayers as part of the 14-day partial lockdown of the country that started on Wednesday.

But in South Jakarta, two of four mosques visited by The Straits Times at noon yesterday – including the Al-Azhar Great Mosque – were open.

Al-Azhar, the second-largest mosque in the capital, had about half the usual congregation, according to one of its security officers.

Nearby, it was a full house at the Nurul Yaqin Mosque in Kebalen Road, though this could be due to the closure of a nearby mosque which complied with the governor’s appeal.

Mr Triadi, a hotel security officer who was on his way to Friday prayers, told ST: “Life and death is in God’s hands.”

Another worshipper, Arif Nazib Arifin, 15, said: “Muslims should not be afraid of the coronavirus, going to a mosque. If we get infected and die, we die nobly.”

Mr Anies said on Thursday that Jakarta residents should not hold any gatherings at places of worship. “The risk of infection we can no longer say is only at one, two, three, four, five areas (within Jakarta), but it is widespread and can be anywhere… Jakarta is an epicentre,” he said.

Grand imam Nasaruddin Umar of South-east Asia’s biggest mosque, the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, supported Mr Anies’ move. Istiqlal cancelled obligatory prayers yesterday.

“There is enough reason to not hold Friday prayers or any communal prayers, as per Indonesia Ulema Council’s edict, if you are in an area where problems are widespread, a virus is spreading,” said the imam.

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