A new strain of coronavirus has been identified by researchers in Indonesia, which has prompted one expert to fear positive cases could surge to half a million in the region by the end of the year. Scientists at the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology have found an “infectious but milder” D614G mutation of the virus.
The new strain of the virus was identified in genome sequencing data from samples and has also been located in tests conducted in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.
Syahrizal Syarif, an epidemiologist with the University of Indonesia, has warned the current level of infections is “out of control” and said current modelling suggests positive cases could rise to 500,000 come the end of December.
Mr Syarif said: “The situation is serious… local transmission currently is out of control.”
The leading epidemiologist also feared the current figures could be much higher if the capacity for testing was increased.
Indonesia has recorded more than 172,000 positive cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, now modelling suggests this could almost treble in the next four months.
Signs of a second wave of coronavirus emerged on Sunday after the Indonesian capital Jakarta saw a record daily increase of more than 1,000 cases.
Across the country, there were also 2,858 new infections – including 82 fatalities.
The daily figure was just below the previous high, set a day earlier, when 3,308 people tested positive.
Dwi Oktavia, an official at the Jakarta health agency, called on people to stay at home and wear a face mask when they go out in order to stem the outbreak.
He said: “There needs to be an awareness and a collective effort, be it from the Government or the people, in addressing the rising number of cases.”
The surge in the number of cases across Asia comes as Europe is on the brink of a second wave.
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Meanwhile, global coronavirus cases have now surged past 25 million with more than 840,000 deaths.
The surge came as India recorded the highest-ever daily increase with 78,761 new infections on Sunday.
The figure was higher than the 77,299 cases reported by the US in mid-July.