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Jakarta expands graveyards as Covid deaths continue to rise

JAKARTA: As deaths from the coronavirus pandemic mount in Indonesia, Jakarta's graveyards are expanding to keep up.

Struggling since last March to get the coronavirus under control, Indonesia has now surpassed one million cases and more than 30,000 deaths, the highest in South-east Asia.

Mr Ivan Nurcahyo, a spokesman for the Jakarta parks agency, said six new graveyard locations had been added in various areas across the city, with three already in use.

"In the past two weeks, and in the past few months, there has been a spike in a few areas where the burials have been carried out with (Covid-19) protocols," he said.

The rising death toll, which public health experts say is likely far higher than the official figures, meant Covid-19 victims could be buried in family plots to take up less space.

"At the moment, in other cemeteries, we offer an option called a 'stack system' where the victim can be buried together with their family member or relatives," he said, adding that the option only applied if a new corpse was "stacked" in a grave above a relative who had died more than five years ago.

In Malaysia, all sectors of the economy are to be reopened during the extension of the movement control order (MCO) but with tighter standard operating procedures, sources told The Star. Malaysia extended the MCO, which was supposed to end today, to Feb 18.

"All economic sectors will be opened, including retail, as we have been informed by trade associations that the current MCO has affected small businesses and SMEs more adversely than the first MCO last March.

In a separate development, Thailand's resort island of Phuket is planning private coronavirus vaccinations for 250,000 residents in the hope the government will allow it to fully reopen to foreign tourists by October and save its battered economy, industry officials said.

"The people of Phuket are losing hope," said Phuket Tourism Association president Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, adding that the island's economy was at its lowest point in recent history.

At least 10 Phuket industry associations have agreed to pool resources to procure vaccines and inoculate at least 70 per cent of the island to create sufficient immunity by Oct 1 to receive tourists. - REUTERS, THE STAR

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