JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia said on Saturday that coronavirus cases had topped 2,000 and deaths risen to 191, but doubts have been raised over official figures by data showing a big jump in funerals last month in the capital Jakarta.
Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto said there had been 106 new confirmed infections, taking the total number of cases in the Southeast Asian country to 2,092, with 10 new deaths.
“We are still on high alert over infections that are taking place in the community that are caused by positive cases among people who are not showing symptoms,” said Yurianto.
Indonesia is relying mainly on social distancing policies to combat the virus since President Joko Widodo has opposed the harsh lockdown measures adopted in many neighboring countries.
The country reported its first case of the virus a month ago, but epidemiologists say a relatively low level of testing means the number of cases may be vastly under-reported.
Indonesia has almost doubled tests in the past week but has conducted only 7,896 tests in a country of more than 260 million people.
According to a Reuters review of statistics from Jakarta’s Department of Parks and Cemeteries, there were nearly 4,400 funerals in the city in March, 40 percent higher than any month since at least January, 2018.
The city has been at the epicenter of COVID-19 infections in Indonesia, accounting for 1,028 cases and around 90 deaths, according to central government data, or roughly half the country’s total for both.
Jakarta’s governor, Anies Baswedan, and some public health experts suspect the number of infections and deaths in the city has been significantly under-reported due to the low rates of testing.
“It is extremely disturbing,” Baswedan told Reuters on Friday, referring to the funeral statistics. “I’m struggling to find another reason than unreported COVID-19 deaths.”
Officials at the health ministry and at the presidential office did not respond to requests for comment.
In an interview on Thursday, before Baswedan had made his comments, Yurianto defended the reporting and testing system and said the central government based its data on lab results using the accurate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method.
(Reporting by Nilufar Rizki and Fransiska Nangoy; editing by Jane Wardell, Ed Davies and Christina Fincher)