Fake medical letters risk fuelling spread of coronavirus in Indonesia, doctors warn

Doctors in Indonesia have warned that a black market in fake “coronavirus-free” health certificates risks further fuelling the spread of the disease in the country.

The number of cases of Covid-19 has surged in recent days, with the country recording nearly 1,000 new infections a day over the weekend.

The world’s fourth most populous nation, with a population of more than 260 million people, has recorded more than 22,000 cases of Covid-19 and more than 1,300 deaths but the true figures are thought to be much higher.  

Last month, President Joko Widodo banned mudik – the annual exodus of millions of Indonesians returning to their hometowns to celebrate the end of of the Muslim month of Ramadan – in order to curb the spread of Covid-19. 

Those with a hospital letter stating they were free of the virus were able to travel but this has led to a burgeoning trade in fake letters, with screengrabs of official-looking documents circulating on social media.

One letter bearing the official letterhead of the Mitra Keluarga Hospital, South Tangerang, near the capital Jakarta was being sold online for 70,000 rupiah (£3.80), with others said to be fetching much more.

 The letter said test results were “non-reactive” and were “valid for a maximum of seven days” from the day the test was taken. 

In a separate incident seven people were arrested in Bali last week for issuing and selling the fake “coronavirus-free” documents.

Moh Adib Khumaidi, of the Indonesian Society of Emergency Physicians, told the Telegraph that the letters were too easy to fake.

“[Our] efforts to create and provide health certificates [for those tested negative of coronavirus] will create many gaps which can be used to avoid large-scale social distancing or quarantine regulations,” said Mr Khumaidi. 

He warned that there was potential “for the emergence of new clusters of viruses to spread”.

Mr Khumaidi said anyone found trading in the forgeries should be punished.

“The granting of this health certificate, if widely used by irresponsible people, will further complicate and slow down the handling of Covid-19 in Indonesia,” he added.

Tokopedia, one of the largest e-commerce platforms in the country, said it had already banned the sale of the letters.

“Although Tokopedia is UGC [user-generated content], where each seller can upload products independently, we never support this irresponsible practice,” said Ekhel Chandra Wijaya, the company’s spokesman. 

“We continue to take proactive actions to keep activities on the Tokopedia platform in accordance with applicable law,” he added.

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