Indonesia to decide soon on ending or extending Covid-19 lockdown

People registering to receive a dose of the Sinovac vaccine at a shopping centre in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, on July 17, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - A top Indonesian minister said on Saturday (July 17) that the government would make a decision in the next two or three days on whether to end or extend the ongoing partial lockdown imposed after a record-breaking surge in Covid-19 infections in the country.

Mr Luhut Pandjaitan, a senior minister overseeing the Covid-19 emergency restrictions, told a press briefing that there had been some improvement in the situation.

"In the past two days, we've seen improvement, and we've entered the 14 to 21 day-period," he said, referring to the period when infections are expected to flatten based on various research.

He noted that some regions, such as Jakarta, had seen declining public mobility and activities.

"If all of us are consistent, I can see that by the end of July, we will be in a better position," said Mr Luhut, who is also Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment.

He said any easing of the restrictions would be based on two indicators - the increase in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases and the trend of the bed occupancy rate in hospitals.

Mr Luhut on Saturday also apologised for shortcomings in the implemenation of Covid-19 restrictions, saying that everyone in the government would continue to work hard to ensure that Delta variant would be curbed and social aid distributed.

Under the emergency restrictions, which took effect on July 3 and are due to end on Tuesday, grocery stores and supermarkets on Java and Bali islands, which account for two-thirds of Covid-19 cases nationwide, are to limit customers to half their capacity and close by 8pm.

Public places, such as shopping malls, parks and places of worship, have been ordered to close, and eateries can only provide takeaway service or deliveries.

The partial lockdown has been expanded to 15 regencies and cities outside Java and Bali since July 12.

Java is Indonesia's most populous island, with 151.6 million people, or 56.1 per cent of the country's 270 million population, while Bali has 4.3 million people.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati who was also at the press briefing announced a new aid package for Indonesians, especially those hit hard by the emergency restrictions.

The government will spend 55.21 trillion rupiah (S$5.2 billion) to expand aid, incentives and healthcare support to groups in need, she said.

South-east Asia's largest economy has already allocated 699.43 trillion rupiah to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the poor as well as businesses.

More than half of the additional amount announced on Saturday, or 33.98 trillion rupiah, will be disbursed to provide additional aid such as cash transfers, reductions in food and electricity bills for low-income families and incentives for micro, small and medium enterprises, according to the Finance Ministry.

Another 21.02 trillion rupiah will be spent on the healthcare sector, including payment to hospitals treating Covid-19 patients, construction of emergency hospitals and incentives to front-line staff for vaccinations.

Indonesia, which overtook India this week as the new epicentre of the pandemic in Asia, reported 51,952 new cases on Saturday, bringing overall infections in the world's fourth most populous country to 2.83 million.

Deaths rose by 1,092 within the past 24 hours, pushing the number of total fatalities to 72,489. Jakarta, accounted for 10,168 fresh infections and 62 new deaths on Saturday.

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