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Covid-positive man boards flight disguised as wife in Indonesia amid pandemic surge

All of the man's documents were "under his wife's name," said Police Chief Aditya Laksimada.
Image: A man who used a fake identity arrives at the Sultan Babullah airport in Ternate, Indonesia
The man, who has not been identified by police, at the Sultan Babullah airport in Ternate, Indonesia, on Sunday.Harmoko / AP

He covered his face and hoped for the best, but his plan to disguise himself as his wife ultimately failed.

Donning a niqab — a face veil worn by some Muslim women — an Indonesian man who tested positive for Covid-19 boarded a plane traveling from the southeast Asian nation's capital Jakarta to the city of Ternate on Sunday, police told the Associated Press.

“He bought the plane ticket with his wife’s name and brought the identity card," said Ternate police chief Aditya Laksimada. He did not identify the man, but added that all of his documents, including his vaccination card were "under his wife's name."

The man's ruse was rumbled when a flight attendant noticed the man change his clothes in the lavatory mid-air and he was arrested when the plane landed, police said.

Tested for Covid-19, the result came back positive, police said, adding that he was self-isolating at home and the investigation will continue.

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Indonesia is experiencing an unusually sombre Eid al-Adha holiday as it is currently in the throes of a devastating coronavirus surge, reporting tens of thousands of cases a day, while the highly virulent Delta variant makes its way across the archipelago.

The muslim-majority nation reported more than 49,000 new cases on Thursday, bringing its total to just over 3 million, according to data from John’s Hopkins University. Indonesia also reported 1,449 deaths on Thursday — a record high according to Johns’ Hopkins.

Experts fear the number could be higher given the country’s slow testing and tracking system.

The country is under partial lockdown, and there are restrictions on nonessential travel. Only people who work in essential sectors and those with urgent needs can travel. All travelers must show a negative coronavirus test.

The crisis has been fueled by a slow vaccine rollout. Just over 8 percent of Indonesia's 270 million-strong population have received both doses, according to its health ministry.

In scenes strikingly similar to Asia’s worst hit nation India, hospitals are on the verge of breakdown as medical supplies, including oxygen tanks, and available beds run dangerously low.

Images of mourning relatives in packed cemeteries have come to symbolize Indonesia’s health crisis, while heart-breaking messages of people remembering loved ones flood social media.