July 18, 2020 / 10:48 AM / in 25 days

Indonesia overtakes China with highest coronavirus cases in East Asia

FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker wearing protective gear walks through a traditional market as swab samples are collected from vendors to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Jakarta, Indonesia, June 25, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia overtook China on Saturday as the country with the most confirmed coronavirus cases in East Asia with 84,882 infections, and authorities said the actual infection rate could be higher due to undetected cases.

Data from the country’s COVID-19 task force showed 1,752 new coronavirus infections on Saturday and 59 fatalities, taking the coronavirus-related death toll to 4,016.

China, where the first cases of the coronavirus were reported late last year, has had 83,644 cases as of Friday, with 4,634 deaths.

“There are possibility of undetected positive cases without symptoms,” said task force spokesman Achmad Yurianto, adding that authorities would continue to prioritise contact tracing.

Epidemiologists have criticised the government for imposing milder restrictions than its neighbours to control the pandemic and for the limited scope of testing.

Some restrictions were eased in early June, even as cases continued to rise, to allow for resumption of some economic activity.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan this week delayed further loosening of curbs, including postponing the reopening of cinemas. The capital city reported 346 new cases on Saturday, its highest daily increase, with eight new fatalities.

The country’s most populous province, West Java, will begin fining people who are not wearing face masks in public places starting July 27, its Governor Ridwan Kamil said on Twitter.

(This story has been refiled to fix garbled phrase in final paragraph)

Reporting by Tabita Diela; Additional reporting by Yuddy Cahya; Editing by Gayatri Suroyo and Frances Kerry

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