Indonesia extends Covid-19 lockdown, set to ramp up contact tracing

Gravediggers carry the coffin of a man who died of Covid-19 as they head towards a cemetery in Bandung on July 25, 2021.
Gravediggers carry the coffin of a man who died of Covid-19 as they head towards a cemetery in Bandung on July 25, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - A partial lockdown has been extended in Indonesia as plans are being finalised to ramp up contact tracing and reinforce quarantine facilities in the country to deal with the highly infectious Delta variant, which has seen it turn into the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in Asia.

From Monday (July 26), a digital contact tracing system will be adopted and field personnel deployed to work with community clinics, local health departments across cities and regencies in the country.

Seven thousand graduates of health vocational schools have been trained to be contact tracers based on World Health Organisation learning modules. The graduates will be supplemented by thousands more from the military and police force.

All will serve as the backbone of operations, which will see close contacts of those who test positive ushered to centralised quarantine or self-isolation at home with better monitoring by the community, said an official who attended a government coordination meeting on Covid-19 on Friday.

"We will be doing this to curb the transmission of Delta variants. We will reduce the spread significantly," senior minister Luhut Pandjaitan, who chaired the meeting, was quoted as saying by the official.

Mr Luhut has been tasked by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to coordinate efforts to contain the spread of the virus in Java and Bali, as well as 15 regions including Sumatra and Kalimantan. Java and Bali account for more than 60 per cent of the total confirmed Covid-19 cases in the world's fourth-most populous country, which has so far reported more than 3.16 million infections and over 83,000 deaths.

The daily average of Covid-19 deaths in the past week has been about seven times the figure in the second week of last month, when the government for the first time confirmed that the Delta variant, first detected in India, had been found in Indonesia. Indonesia recently overtook India and Brazil as the global Covid-19 hot spot.

On Sunday night, Mr Widodo announced that he had decided to extend the ongoing partial lockdown in several regions, which had led to the suspension of most activities and the closure of non-essential public places, including malls, places of worship and parks from July 3. The lockdown, which was due to end on Sunday, has been extended to Aug 2 with minor adjustments, including allowing dining in for up to 20 minutes at open-air sidewalk food stalls.

Under the tighter restrictions, all non-essential workers also had to work from home, while up to 50 per cent of those working in essential sectors, including banks, the stock market and hotels, were put on staggered shifts. Restaurants can only provide takeaway and delivery services.

The meeting on Friday discussed whether a white flag should be used to mark homes where people were self-isolating to ensure better monitoring by the community.

Centralised quarantine facilities must be manned by two to three doctors and a team of nurses. The minimum number of doctors and nurses was expected to be firmed up at the meeting on Sunday night.

"We want to make sure each centralised isolation location has ample medical equipment, doctors, nurses and food. Otherwise, people do not want to come," the military chief was quoted as saying.

Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said that he and the head of the Disaster Management Agency, Mr Ganip Warsito, would from Saturday begin visiting centralised quarantine centres in Java and Bali.

The 38 cities and regencies in East Java, one of the provinces discussed in the meeting, has between one and nine centralised quarantine centres. Each centre may accommodate between 70 and 410 patients.