Jakarta/Manila – Indonesia has overtaken the Philippines to become South-east Asia's new pandemic hot spot on Thursday (Oct 15), as it struggles to contain surging Covid-19 infections with fresh cases hitting 4,000 cases a day.
With 4,411 new cases in the past 24 hours, Indonesia's tally hit 349,160 on Thursday – the highest in South-east Asia. There have been 12,268 deaths, also the highest in the region. The Philippines reported 2,261 new cases, raising its total to 348,698.
Indonesia has seen a faster growth in infections in the past few months as large-scale social restrictions were eased in many parts of the vast archipelago from June to give some reprieve to an economy battered by the pandemic.
The capital Jakarta went into a second partial lockdown on Sept 14 in a last-ditch attempt to contain the rapidly surging coronavirus cases. The lifting of restrictions started on Monday (Oct 12).
The government has blamed the spike in cases on people's failure to comply with health protocols, such as wearing masks and keeping a safe distance, but critics say the authorities have prioritised resuscitating the economy over tackling the pandemic properly.
In the Philippines, with fewer Covid-19 cases surfacing, the government has been easing quarantine restrictions to speed up the reopening of an economy that is already in deep recession, despite warnings from experts that this could lead to a surge in infections.
The government is allowing commuters to sit closer together when taking public transport, and more businesses can now operate at full capacity. Teens and those aged 61 to 65 are also now allowed to go out of their homes.
However, experts from a research team at the state-run University of the Philippines voiced concern that cases in Metro Manila, the capital region, and in seven provinces had recently been spiking.