Covid-19 wrap | Indonesia minister slammed for 'virus is like your wife' joke, 232 deaths in Russia

  • An Indonesian minister is under fire after he compared coronavirus to rebellious wives.
  •  Indonesian officials are forcing social distancing violators to recite Koran verses, stay in "haunted" houses and submit to public shaming.
  • A health expert has suggested Italy's regions may be tampering with virus infection data to avoid another lockdown.

Indonesia minister slammed for 'virus is like your wife' remarks           

An Indonesian minister is under fire after he compared coronavirus to rebellious wives, in remarks aimed at soothing public fears about easing Covid-19 restrictions across the Southeast Asian archipelago.

Women's groups and social media users slammed the apparent joke by security minister Mohammad Mahfud MD, who made the comments during an online address to a local university earlier this week.

"Are we going to be holed up forever? We can adjust to the situation while still paying attention to our health," the minister said on Tuesday.

"The other day I got a meme from my colleague... that says: Corona is like your wife. Initially you tried to control it, then you realise that you can't. Then you learn to live with it."

Critics panned the remarks as sexist and said it underscored Jakarta's weak response to the virus outbreak.

"This statement not only reflects the superficial power of the government to solve the Covid-19 pandemic problem, but also shows the sexist and misogynistic mindset of public officials," Women's Solidarity group chief executive Dinda Nisa Yura said in a statement.

Mahfud's office did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.


Indonesia rolls out public shaming for virus violators   

 Indonesian officials are forcing social distancing violators to recite Koran verses, stay in "haunted" houses and submit to public shaming on social media as the country battles to contain surging coronavirus infections.

Farther north in conservative Aceh province, those flouting public health regulations have been forced to atone by reading passages from the Koran.

The area's tiny non-Muslim minority are spared from the punishment.

Capital city Jakarta announced new rules this month that could see residents who break social distancing rules forced to clean public facilities - including toilets - while wearing vests that label them as rule-breakers.

To the east in Sragen regency, offenders have been jailed in repurposed abandoned houses that local residents believe are haunted - tapping widespread beliefs in the supernatural, which play a key role in Indonesian folklore.


Italy regions accused of meddling with virus data            

A health expert has suggested Italy's regions may be tampering with virus infection data to avoid being told to lock down again, sparking a furious row on Friday as the country prepares to reopen.

Lombardy, the worst-hit region, was singled out for criticism but angrily denied the claims and threatened to sue.

"There is a reasonable suspicion that the regions are using tricks so they don't have to close again," Nino Cartabellotta, head of the Fondazione GIMBE, a health think tank, told the Radio 24 broadcaster on Thursday.

In Lombardy, he said there had been "too many strange things about the data over the past three months", including people counted as cured when they were released from hospital even when they were still sick.

There had been unusual delays in releasing the data even after the emergency phase was over, he said, and days when far fewer tests were carried out - as if Lombardy was avoiding uncovering new cases.

"It's as if there was a kind of necessity to keep diagnosed numbers under a certain level," Cartabellotta said.


Germany's virus 'guru' in crosshairs of lockdown critics  

One of Germany's top virologists has become a hate figure for conspiracy theorists and the anti-lockdown movement, leading to an ugly spat with the country's top-selling newspaper and exposing a growing rift over the role of scientists in fighting the pandemic.

Christian Drosten, a world-leading expert on coronaviruses, has advised Chancellor Angela Merkel's government on Covid-19 measures credited with bringing the outbreak under control by early May and keeping the death toll relatively low.

But his high profile and frequent media appearances have also made him a lightning rod for a noisy minority angry about social distancing rules they see as too restrictive and even authoritarian.

The debate around the curly-haired scientist in his late 40s reached a peak this week when he became embroiled in a bitter public row with the tabloid-style Bild newspaper, which attempted to cast doubt on his scientific research.


Russia reports record toll of new virus deaths

Russia reported a record increase of 232 coronavirus deaths on Friday as Moscow authorities released mortality figures to dispel allegations they were being manipulated.

Health officials reported a total of 4 374 deaths and 387 623 cases, the third-highest number of infections in the world after the United States and Brazil.

New infections were below 9 000 for the sixth day in a row at 8 572 cases, while a total of 159 257 people have recovered, according to an official tally.

Moscow - the worst-hit city in Russia - reported 2 332 new cases.


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