UPDATE 1-Indonesia urged to change tack amid record coronavirus infections

JAKARTA, Sept 3- Indonesia posted another day of record high coronavirus cases on Thursday, with 3,622 new infections as the world’s fourth-most populous nation grapples to contain a spread that has caused the region’s highest COVID-19 death toll. The 134 deaths reported on Thursday took total fatalities to 7,750 from among Indonesia’s 184,268 cases.

* Change in strategy needed as cases soar – expert

* Govt says health protocols must be followed

* President expects cases to peak this month

* Government criticised for prioritising economy(Recasts, adds details, comments throughout)

By Agustinus Beo Da Costa

JAKARTA, Sept 3 (Reuters) – Indonesia posted another day ofrecord high coronavirus cases on Thursday, with 3,622 newinfections as the world’s fourth-most populous nation grapplesto contain a spread that has caused the region’s highestCOVID-19 death toll.

The 134 deaths reported on Thursday took total fatalities to7,750 from among Indonesia’s 184,268 cases. Public healthexperts say the real number is likely to be higher givenIndonesia’s low testing rates.

The new records come in a week when Indonesian PresidentJoko Widodo said he expected cases to peak this month and thepublic should focus on declining active cases rather thanoverall infection numbers.

Despite his optimism, epidemiologists said Indonesia wasstruggling and needed to change tack.

“We haven’t managed to control transmission and remember theCOVID-19 pandemic is not spreading randomly, but in distributedclusters in very large areas,” Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist atthe University of Indonesia told a virtual news conference.

“We have to change strategy.”

Riono called for improvements in basic measures from testingto contact-tracing and isolation.

Ainun Najib, from KawalCOVID-19, an independent website thatcollates coronavirus data, said key data such as rising casenumbers and a positivity rate at 15% in August, indicatedIndonesia was still at the “start of the pandemic”.

In the capital Jakarta, the virus epicentre, there have beenalmost 1,000 new cases each day this week, pushing hospital bedoccupancy rates higher.

Patients treated for suspected coronavirus infections atJakarta’s main COVID-19 referral hospital have more than tripledfrom July to August.

The government has been critcised for prioritising theeconomy over public health, with belated and poorly enforcedlockdowns and an unwillingness to restrict economic activity,such as at factories, where clusters have emerged.

Wiku Adisasmito, Indonesia’s COVID-19 taskforce spokesman,said Thursday’s increase was “worrying”.

“It is the duty of the whole community to apply good healthprotocols,” he said.(Additional reporting by Fransiska Nangoy, Tabita Diela andMaikel Jefriando; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by MartinPetty.)

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