The number of funerals in Jakarta has risen sharply, following the outbreak of coronavirus.
This heart-rending development has elicited reaction from the governor of Indonesia’s capital city, claiming that deaths from the new coronavirus might be higher than officially reported.
Nearly 4,400 burials occurred in March, 40 percent higher than any month since January 2018, according to statistics from the Jakarta’s Department of Parks and Cemeteries.
Only 90 deaths have been reported as a result of coronavirus-related complications.
The second-highest total during that period was March 2019, when nearly 3,100 people were buried.
The city has been at the epicentre of novel coronavirus infections in Indonesia, reckoning for 971 cases and 90 deaths, according to central government data.
Jakarta’s governor, Anies Baswedan, and some public health experts suspect the number of infections and deaths in Jakarta has been significantly underreported due to one of the world’s lowest rates of testing.
“It is extremely disturbing,” Baswedan said on Friday, referring to the funeral statistics. “I’m struggling to find another reason than unreported Covid-19 deaths.”
The figures from Jakarta’s Department of Parks and Cemeteries do not identify the cause of death, but no other new epidemics have been reported in Jakarta over the period and nor were there any major natural disasters.
Indonesia has almost doubled tests in the past week but has conducted only 7,621 tests in a country of more than 260 million people.
As of Friday, the Health Ministry reported the total number of infections in Indonesia was 1,986. Deaths from COVID-19 were 181, the most in Asia apart from China.
Hospital staff and undertakers in Jakarta have taken special precautions with the bodies of 438 people they suspect died from Covid-19 between March 6 and April 2, according to the governor’s office.
They disinfected and wrapped the bodies in plastic rather than fabric as Islamic customs require.
Indonesia is combating the outbreak of novel coronavirus by introducing social distancing policies, but President Joko Widodo has opposed the harsh lockdown measures adopted in many countries including Indonesia’s neighbours.
Widodo has said that he wants to protect the poor from economic dislocation and believes Indonesians lack the discipline to embrace tough quarantine measures.
The novel coronavirus has already spread beyond Jakarta. It has been detected in 32 of the country’s 34 provinces and most cases are outside Jakarta, according to central government data.