By Willy Kurniawan and Heru Asprihanto
JAKARTA (Reuters) — As debate rages about the real death toll brought on by the coronavirus epidemic in Indonesia, Jakarta coffin manufacturer Sahroni was too busy to cover the issue much attention.
“Usually we market between five to seven coffins a day, but it is up to 20 to 30 coffins a day,” said Sahroni, 38, since he applied base coat on a wooden coffin.
The shelves of his workshop were stacked with painted coffins, while out a row of white stripes dried under the sun.
“Our working hours are now from morning to midnight,” said Sahroni, who uses one name.
The warehouse where Sahroni works generally specialises in coffins for Indonesia’s Christian minority, but they are supplying coffins for many denominations, such as Muslims who would normally be buried in a shroud. New protocols for victims of COVID-19 or victims call for using coffins.
As of Wednesday, nearly 3,000 cases had been identified by Indonesia and recorded 240 deaths. But epidemiologists and public health specialists stage to the low frequency of high and testing death rate as indications the real infection rate is considerably greater.
Exclusive data obtained by Reuters revealed there were nearly 4,400 burials in Jakarta that March out of any month in the previous two years, and a signal deaths in the virus could be greater than reported.
Data in the Jakarta sheriff’s office showed greater than 438 people had been buried according protocols between April 6 and March 2, regardless of the federal death toll standing at just under that figure.
In some cases, victims have died before test results were available, seeing them buried according protocols as a precaution.
Whatever the figures are, home to more than 10 million individuals and also the epicentre of the epidemic from the world’s fourth most populous country, those operating in the funeral industry in Jakarta, are getting ready for a mounting toll.
An old warehouse that was coffin-making has reopened in West Java, the most populous province of Indonesia, started a line of coffins that were more economical and contributed 1,000 coffins.
Those responsible for hauling sufferers that are coronavirus to their burial grounds are also grappling with the pandemic’s catastrophic fallout.
She added that burials had jumped in the week from 30 to 40 a day this past month, and a new burial ground had been opened.
Sumiyati now carries her job in protective gear — a plastic raincoat, masks, gloves and gloves out — and her household has implemented new protocols.
“At home, my kids have ready disinfectant spray, which they squirt me. Otherwise, they will not allow me in,” she said. “This is the results of the job. We have to accept the threat.”