The Jakarta Post
Following the province's highest daily increase in COVID-19 cases to date, an epidemiologist on Thursday warned of another probable spike after Idul Fitri.
Epidemiologist Windhu Purnomo of Airlangga University (UNAIR) warned that the province should expect another surge in new cases after Idul Fitri as a result of lax public compliance with social distancing policies.
"We have seen people flooding the malls and supermarkets, where many can contract the virus,” Windhu told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
“The roads are busier now. We will also see [people] attending the Idul Fitri congregational prayer and then practicing the tradition of silaturahmi during Lebaran," he said, referring to the customary "meet and greet" among Muslims during the holiday.
"This is the perfect condition to spread the virus even farther."
According to the official tally, East Java recorded 502 new cases on Thursday, bringing its cumulative total to 2,998 confirmed cases, the second highest after Jakarta. The province, which has emerged as a new epicenter of the outbreak in the country, has also recorded 241 deaths from COVID-19.
Local authorities admitted that the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) that had been imposed in Greater Surabaya since April 28 had failed to flatten the curve of transmission in the provincial capital and surrounding areas.
Joni Wahyuhadi, the curative management head of the East Java COVID-19 task force, said that Thursday's jump in confirmed cases was in part due to test results submitted from a backlog of around 1,500 swab samples at the lab of the UNAIR Institute of Tropical Diseases (ITD).
"The results of the PCR [polymerase chain reaction] tests on swab samples submitted to the ITD lab on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were reported to Jakarta all at once. The cumulative test results of the three days [...] cover 488 samples," Joni told reporters at Thursday's daily COVID-19 briefing.
The eight other COVID-19 testing labs reported only 14 confirmed cases on Wednesday, he said, and that the combined sum of 502 new cases was the figure that national COVID-19 spokesman Achmad Yurianto announced on Thursday.
Joni said that the provincial task force had verified the identity and place of origin for 451 of the 502 new cases, while it was still verifying the remaining 51 cases. The task force had therefore temporarily added only 451 new cases to bring the regional figure to 2,942 confirmed cases.
He said that the spike in new cases was also attributable to a sharp increase to 1,500 PCR tests per day at the nine designated labs in the province.
Joni acknowledged, however, that the sharp increase in new cases reflected the continuing spread of the coronavirus in East Java, especially in the provincial epicenter of Surabaya.
Surabaya recorded 311 of the 502 new cases that were announced on Thursday, bringing the provincial capital's cumulative tally to 1,566 – a little over half of all confirmed cases in the province.
The satellite regencies of Sidoarjo and Gresik, which make up Greater Surabaya along with the East Java capital, have the second and third highest number of cases and respectively recorded 57 and 27 new cases on Thursday.
The three regions together have nearly 70 percent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in East Java.