Indonesian health authorities have made it mandatory for citizens to wear face masks when venturing outside in a tough new measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus that has killed nearly 200 and infected almost 2,300 in the country.
The Health Ministry’s director-general for disease control and prevention, Dr Achmad Yurianto, said everyone would have to wear masks in public with effect from Sunday (April 5), in line with a recommendation from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“Surgical masks and N95 masks are only for medical workers. Please use cloth masks. This is important because we don’t know if many people without symptoms are out there,” he said at a daily press conference.
Indonesia reported 181 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, taking the total number of infections in the country to 2,273. There were another seven deaths over a 24-hour period, taking overall fatalities in the world’s fourth-most populous nation to 198, the highest in South-east Asia. The number of recovered patients was up by 14 to 164.
“With this data, we believe that the transmission is still ongoing out there. There are still asymptomatic cases among us. Some of us still don’t realise that we are vulnerable to infections,” Dr Yurianto said of the latest figures.
Authorities have estimated that between 600,000 and 700,000 people in Indonesia are at risk of being infected by the virus. The government is expanding testing on a war-footing to curtail the outbreak.