JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia is bracing for a sharp increase in coronavirus cases as it steps up efforts to find and test victims, Indonesian health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said on Tuesday.
“Because we are actively following, the number of patients will increase significantly,” he said.
Yurianto revealed that 38 new cases of new coronary pneumonia were confirmed in Indonesia in the past two days, bringing the total number of infections to 172, including 5 deaths.
Most of the new cases were detected in Jakarta, but cases were also detected in East Java, Central Java and Riau provinces, he said. Cases have previously been detected in Bali, Borneo and Sulawesi.
Indonesian authorities have been criticized by doctors and local media for their handling of the coronavirus outbreak, in part because too few tests were being conducted on potential coronavirus patients.
The country of more than 260 million people has conducted a total of 1,230 coronavirus tests as of Monday, according to the health ministry website. South Korea, by contrast, has less than one-fifth the population of Indonesia but has tested more than 220,000 people.
The World Health Organization on Monday urged countries to conduct more testing as part of efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, Indonesia’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday it would ban the entry and transit of tourists from seven European countries and Iran from March 20 due to coronavirus concerns.
The seven European countries are the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Vatican City.
In addition, all travelers wishing to visit Indonesia in the next month must obtain a health certificate from their home country and must apply for a visa from the Indonesian mission, the ministry said in a statement.
This change means that Indonesia’s visa-on-arrival and visa-free policies for short-term tourists will be suspended.
Restrictions on travelers from China, South Korea’s Daegu city and North Gyeongsang Province remain in place, the foreign ministry said.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has yet to declare a national state of emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak. However, Doni Monardo, head of the Indonesian Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), issued a circular extending the state of “certain emergencies” until May 29.
A BNPB spokesman said this made it easier for the agency to allocate resources and conduct emergency operations.
Indonesia Stock Index .JKSE Rupee falls 5% on Tuesday Indonesian Rupiah = It fell 1.7 percent, extending losses on fears of capital outflows due to the virus outbreak.
Reporting by Gayatri Suroyo, Tom Allard, Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Michael Jeffriando; Editing by Steve Orlovsky