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AFP
March 28, 2020

Indonesia virus plans ‘in tatters’ as infections surge

World

AFP
March 28, 2020

JAKARTA: Indonesia's coronavirus crisis is far worse than being officially reported and the government´s response is "in tatters", the country´s doctors association warned Friday as the death toll climbed to 87.

The world's fourth-most populous country only reported its first confirmed infection this month but the number had ballooned to over 1,000 by Friday. Indonesia's 87 confirmed coronavirus deaths are the highest toll in Southeast Asia, with public health and diplomatic officials warning that its weak health system is being rapidly overwhelmed.

"The government´s plans are in tatters and they appear to be avoiding a lockdown," said Indonesian Doctors´ Association spokesman Halik Malik.

"Our health system is not as strong as other countries." A London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine study warned this week that cases in Indonesia -- with a population of more than 260 million people -- could be vastly underreported.

The government´s virus task force has estimated as many as 700,000 people were at risk of infection nationwide. But the rate of testing has been low compared with many other countries -- only 2,300 were conducted before the government stopped announcing the number of tests.

Authorities have come under heavy criticism for not imposing lockdowns in major cities, including the capital Jakarta, a vast city home to about 30 million where most of the deaths have been reported.

"The COVID-19 situation in Indonesia is very serious and getting worse quickly," the Canadian embassy in Jakarta said Thursday, saying it was urgently advising citizens to leave. "The health care system in Indonesia will soon be overwhelmed. The ultimate number of fatalities will be very high." Indonesia had fewer than four doctors for every 10,000 people, according to World Health Organization data from 2017.