Officials check on travelers returning to their hometown at a district border in Ciamis, West Java, last Friday. (Antara Photo/Adeng Bustomi)

Gov't Discloses Data on Suspect Cases of Covid-19 as Millions Leave Pandemic Epicenter Jakarta


APRIL 15, 2020

Jakarta. The central government has finally released its official figure on suspect cases of Covid-19 across the country, which turned out to be much higher than the number of confirmed cases so far, stoking fears that the worst of the pandemic is yet to come. 

Indonesia has two official categories for suspect Covid-19 patients, based on their contact history with confirmed patients or admissions to hospitals for coronavirus. 

The Covid-19 Task Force announced on Tuesday there were a total of 139,137 "people under surveillance" (ODP) – aka people who may have come into contact with confirmed Covid-19 patients – and 10,482 "patients under monitoring" (PDP), or people who have been admitted to hospital and shown symptoms of Covid-19 but have not been swab-tested. 

"This is a big concern because these people might not become sick but they might still become a source of transmission," task force spokesman Achmad Yurianto said on Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, Indonesia has 4,839 Covid-19 cases confirmed through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, Achmad said.

This was the first time the central government disclosed the figure, despite urging from experts, regional governments and the public since the pandemic was first detected in the country in early March.

Several provinces including Jakarta, West Java and East Java have already released the data for their regions last month. 

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo gave the order to disclose the data to the public on Monday, reversing his earlier stance not to do so to avoid panic among the public. 

The new data will be crucial for regional areas who have been seeing residents returning from the Greater Jakarta area, the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic in the archipelago. 

Agus Taufik Mulyono, the chairman of the Indonesian Transportation Society (MTI), said 900,000 people have already left the capital and its satellite cities in the past few weeks, citing data from the Transportation Ministry. 

President Jokowi has barred civil servants, employees of state-owned enterprises and members of the Indonesian Military and the National Police, from mudik, the annual Idul Fitri exodus back to people's hometowns, coming up at the end of May to prevent an even more catastrophic spread of the coronavirus. 

Agus said another 1.3 million people might still leave the Greater Jakarta area in the next few weeks either because they can't give up the mudik tradition, have lost their jobs in Jakarta or because of pressures from parents and families at home.

Jokowi said earlier the government has not officially banned mudik this year but actively encourages the public to refrain from making the often long, arduous trips.