An Indonesian man who allegedly disguised himself as his wife and used her negative COVID-19 test results to board a plane was caught after nearly pulling off the daring but dangerous stunt.
The unusual attempt happened in Jakarta, the capital of pandemic-ravaged Indonesia, which has overtaken India as the new epicenter for the pandemic—recording upwards of 50,000 new daily cases over the weekend, though health experts say the real number could be much higher.
In recent days, the country has recorded more than 1,000 daily deaths, higher than India and Brazil. More than 70,000 people have been killed since the pandemic hit Indonesia, but the country has only vaccinated roughly six percent of its population of nearly 300 million people.
Local media reports said the airline passenger, identified only by the initials “DW,” successfully bypassed security and health officials at the airport in Jakarta that handles many domestic flights, and hopped on a plane bound for his hometown on Ternate island.
To accomplish this he reportedly put on his wife’s burqa, a veil worn by some Muslim women to cover nearly the entire face, but he was caught while changing out of it at some point during the journey.
He then tested positive for COVID-19.
Officials who received DW upon his arrival in Ternate said they would step up security screening efforts in light of the incident. After the man tested positive, he was transported to his home by ambulance, according to CNN Indonesia.
“The suspect is still self-isolating at home. He will be interrogated once he’s tested negative,” police chief commissioner Adip Rojikan from the North Maluku police force was quoted as saying in a separate report.
The COVID-19 situation in Indonesia remains catastrophic, with new infections and death rates climbing every day. Doctors and medical staff are dying while trying to deal with the brunt of the pandemic as the deadly Delta variant rips through hospitals, which are now overstretched.
From Vietnam to Thailand and Myanmar, countries across Southeast Asia are also dealing with a surge in cases, and governments are under pressure.
In Thailand and Indonesia especially, there is intense debate over the countries’ use of China’s Sinovac vaccine. Both governments have announced plans to give booster shots of different types of vaccines to health workers who received doses of Sinovac’s jab.
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