Indonesia passes Philippines as Southeast Asia’s virus hot spot

JAKARTA — Indonesia has overtaken the Philippines to become the Southeast Asian nation with the most cases of the coronavirus disease COVID-19, and the government predicts the number could peak at 106,000 in June or July.

Indonesia reported 407 new COVID-19 cases Friday afternoon, bringing its total to 5,923. This put the country ahead of the Philippines, which has confirmed 5,878.

Combating the virus has taken on even greater urgency for the Muslim-majority nation ahead of next week’s start of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting and prayer, during which people traditionally gather to break fast each day.

The virus was slow to gain a foothold in Indonesia, which confirmed its first case on March 2. But the country now leads Southeast Asia in COVID-19 deaths as well, with 520.

The local fatality rate — last reported at 8.7% — exceeds the global average, raising questions about the ability of the country’s health care system to cope with the widening outbreak.

Despite earlier measures to stop the spread of the virus, including a partial lockdown here in the Indonesian capital, Friday marked the largest daily increase in COVID-19 cases for Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Ahead of Ramadan, the national government has approved calls by states to limit large-scale events and gatherings.

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