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Theft of Corpses Adds to Indonesia’s Coronavirus Challenges

  • Covid-19 has spread rapidly across the nation’s island chain
  • Reopening economy to save it from crisis has worsened outlook
Health workers conduct a swab test in Bandung on July 11.
Health workers conduct a swab test in Bandung on July 11.Photographer: Timur Matahari/AFP via Getty Images
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Body stealing, island hopping and smiling are some of the latest challenges facing Indonesia as the virus spreads along the world’s largest archipelago, turning the Southeast Asian nation into the latest cautionary tale about how long the battle against the pandemic will last.

Like other large developing nations with a lot of people in low-income brackets and a medical infrastructure unprepared for such a rapid and complex emergency, Indonesia is caught between the need to contain the epidemic and the difficulty of enforcing isolation for millions who have to work to eat. Added to that are a mix of cultural, religious and geographical factors unique to the country of 17,000 islands that have made it almost impossible for the government to contain the disease.