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Greater Jakarta failing as floodgate to nationwide COVID-19 epidemic

Greater Jakarta, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Indonesia, has remained open to visitors and continued to export the virus across the country, with new provinces reporting cases every day. 

By Tuesday, the country had confirmed the spread of local transmissions to 24 of its 34 provinces and an upward trend in the number of confirmed cases outside Jakarta. In comparison, the Health Ministry reported confirmed cases in just eight provinces a week earlier on March 16.

On Monday, the ministry recorded that local transmissions were occurring in Jakarta province, Tangerang regency and Tangerang municipality in Banten province, and in Bekasi regency, Bekasi municipality and Depok in West Java. Outside Greater Jakarta, Surakarta in Central Java as well as Malang regency and Surabaya in East Java have also recorded local transmission.

Tuesday's reported figure of 686 cases included 226 cases outside the capital.

Cities from Sumatra to Papua are now reporting that their first confirmed cases had a history of recent travel to Greater Jakarta. South Sumatra and West Nusa Tenggara reported their first cases on Tuesday while the provinces North Maluku and Jambi reported first cases on Monday, with the majority of cases having traveled recently to Greater Jakarta.

On Tuesday, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo reiterated his stance against imposing a nationwide lockdown, despite the increasing number of cities that are reporting cases of local transmission.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan has called on the capital's residents to refrain from traveling outside Jakarta, but the call remains a mere suggestion since the city's borders are still open.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Agus Wibowo pointed to "a lack of discipline" among Jakartans as the primary cause of the high number of regionally imported cases from the capital.

“[Jakarta's] residents lack discipline in adhering to the [physical] distancing and stay at home policies. If every resident practiced these with discipline, the number of cases spreading outside Greater Jakarta could be reduced, even without a lockdown,” Agus told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

“The government must take stricter action to ensure that all residents [in Greater Jakarta] practice [physical] distancing," he stressed. "They need to educate more residents about this too, because it seems that many people are still unaware of the goal and importance of social distancing.” 

11 regions with imported cases from Jakarta:

1. Surakarta, Central Java

This relatively small city in Central Java reported its first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 on March 13, a 59-year-old and a 60-year-old who developed cough and fever after attending an Islamic law seminar on riba (usury) in Bogor, West Java, on Feb. 25-28.

2. Yogyakarta

Three out of the five confirmed cases in the special province have a travel history to Greater Jakarta. Yogyakarta provincial spokesperson Berty Murtiningsih said that one case had recently traveled to Jakarta, another had attended the riba seminar in Bogor, and the third had recently returned from Tangerang, Banten.

3. Medan, North Sumatra

The provincial capital on Monday recorded the death of a businessman, identified as AGI, whose test results came back positive for COVID-19 after his death. It was the city's second recorded death from COVID-19.

One of the businessman's friends told the Post that AGI had visited Jakarta last week. "Not long after he returned from Jakarta, AGI was admitted to a hospital and he passed away today," the friend said on Monday.

4. Tebo, Jambi

The province's first confirmed case is believed to be a senior official in Tebo regency. Oktavienni, the director of Sultan Thaha Saifudin Regional General Hospital in Tebo, said that the patient had developed symptoms are returning from a recent tour to Jakarta and Bali.

Jambi Health Agency head Ida Yuliati said the administration was monitoring 64 students and five teachers from SMA 1 Jambi senior high school who had recently returned from a field trip to several areas across Java.

5. Batam, Riau Islands

The city, located in the archipelagic province that is Indonesia's closest point to Singapore, has recorded the death of a patient who contracted the disease while attending a seminar in Bogor held by the Protestant Churches of Western Indonesia (GPIB) at the end of February. Batam Health Agency head Didi Kusmardjadi said that the 51-year-old woman was admitted to a local hospital on March 14 and died eight days later.

6. Samarinda, Tenggarong and Balikpapan in East Kalimantan

One resident in the provincial capital of Samarinda tested positive for COVID-19, followed by two confirmed cases in Balikpapan and Tenggarong three days later. All three cases had attended the riba seminar in Bogor in late February.

7. Blitar and Surabaya, East Java

On Monday, the birthplace of Indonesia's first president reported the regency's first case, a 38-year-old midwife identified as AY who tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from Bogor. AY is the daughter-in-law of Blitar regency secretary Totok Subihandono, who also heads the Blitar COVID-19 task force.

"The patient, who has tested positive for COVID-19, is [one of our own]," Blitar Regent Rijanto told a press briefing on Monday. "She accompanied her husband, who works in Bogor."

Sources in Surabaya also confirmed that several cases in the provincial capital became symptomatic after traveling to Jakarta, particularly after coming into close contact with Transportation Minister Budi Karya.

8. Bali

The resort island announced on Monday a Romanian couple that had tested positive for the virus and one local confirmed case that was imported from Jakarta. This brings the total number of confirmed cases in Bali to six, including two deaths.

Bali COVID 19 task force chairman Dewa Made Indra said that the Balinese man tested positive for COVID 19 after returning from Jakarta.

“The man had never gone overseas. He had just returned from a business trip outside Bali, to Jakarta,” said Dewa, adding that all cases in Bali to date were imported cases.

9. Ambon, Maluku

The provincial capital reported its first confirmed case on Sunday, a recent migrant from Bekasi, West Java. Maluku provincial secretary Kasrul Selang said that the man had been placed under surveillance at Dr. Haulussy Regional General Hospital in Ambon upon his arrival from Bekasi, and had been showing improvements before his test results came back positive.

10. Merauke, Papua

The first confirmed case in the regency is reportedly an imported case from Greater Jakarta, a 46-year-old man who attended the riba seminar in Bogor in late February. According to, the man arrived in Merauke on March 4 from Makassar, South Sulawesi, via Jayapura, Papua.

11. Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara

The West Nusa Tenggara administration announced on Tuesday that the province had a confirmed COVID-19 patient, a 50-year-old woman from Lombok island.

Governor Zulkieflimansyah said the patient likely got the virus from outside the province, considering she had traveled to Jakarta within the last 14 days.

"She went to Jakarta to attend an international conference and met with several ambassadors from other countries," Zulkieflimansyah said.

She began getting treatment on March 17, he said.

Source: Jakarta Post

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