JAKARTA - Indonesia is extending a partial lockdown till Sunday (July 25) as it battles a record surge in Covid-19 cases caused by the more infectious Delta variant.
Under the emergency curbs imposed on July 3 and due to lapse on Tuesday, grocery stores and supermarkets on Java and Bali islands, which account for two-thirds of Covid-19 cases nationwide, have to limit customers to half their capacity and close by 8pm.
Public places, such as shopping malls, parks and places of worship, are closed, while eateries can only offer takeaways and deliveries.
The curbs were expanded from July 12 to cover 15 regencies and cities outside the two main islands.
President Joko Widodo on Tuesday said the decision to impose the tough restrictions was very hard for the government but one that was inevitable to curb the spread of Covid-19. He said it was necessary to alleviate the burden on hospitals to allow them to serve other patients with critical diseases.
Speaking in a live-streamed broadcast, he said: “After we imposed the emergency restrictions, the increase in new cases and bed occupancy rate followed a downward trend. We always monitor and observe the dynamics on the ground and listen to the people affected by the emergency restrictions. Therefore, if the trend of the decline in cases continues, the government will begin easing (restrictions) gradually from July 26.”
The plan to ease restrictions includes allowing traditional markets selling staples to open until 8pm but at half of their capacity.
Traditional markets selling other items may open until 3pm but also at half their capacity.
Other small-scale businesses, such as street vendors, laundry and workshops, may open until 9pm. Food stalls and the like located outdoors may serve customers until 9pm, with each customer limited to 30 minutes.
President Widodo also called on all Indonesians to unite and work with the government to deal with pandemic.
“Indeed, this is a very tough situation, but with our collective hard efforts, God willing, we will soon be freed from Covid-19, and social and economic activities of the public can return to normal,” he said.
Referring to an aid package announced last week, Mr Widodo said the government would continue to distribute social and financial aid to deserving citizens.
Indonesia became the new epicentre for Covid-19 in Asia last week after it surpassed India in the number of daily cases. The surge in cases came as the Delta variant spread across the country soon after Hari Raya Aidilfitri in May, when millions of people, ignoring official pleadings, travelled around the vast archipelago.
The surge has overwhelmed hospitals, with medicine supplies and oxygen reserves running low.
On Sunday, the world’s fourth- most populous nation of 270 million also surpassed Brazil by recording the largest number of daily Covid-19 deaths, with 1,093 reported at mid-day.
This figure rose to a record 1,338 on Monday as daily new infections declined to 34,257, the lowest in the past two weeks.
On Tuesday, 38,325 new cases were reported, bringing the overall number of cases in the country to 2.95 million. Figures showed 1,280 died within the past 24 hours, bringing total fatalities to 76,200.