JAKARTA - Indonesia is expected to impose by Saturday (July 3) stricter restrictions as South-east Asia's most-populous country battles a second wave of coronavirus infections, driven by the more transmissible Delta variant.
The planned new measures, called Pemberlakuan Pembatasan Kegiatan Masyarakat Darurat, or PPKM Emergency public activity restrictions, would likely cover Java and Bali, said a senior government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The latest restrictions had previously been slated to start three days earlier, on Wednesday.
President Joko Widodo has appointed coordinating maritime affairs and investment minister Luhut Pandjaitan as the PPKM Emergency coordinator for Java and Bali, the ministry's spokesman Jodi Mahardi said in a statement on Tuesday night.
On the impending new Covid-19 measures, Mr Jodi said: "The government is currently formulating stricter measures that it will take. The government will make an official announcement."
He did not provide the time frame on the announcement, but The Straits Times understands it may be made on Thursday.
The latest measures may require all workers in non-essential sectors to work from home and ban dining in at restaurants, an MP, who is a member of the health committee in Parliament, told The Straits Times separately via text message.
Currently, 25 per cent of a company's employees are allowed to work from office, and restaurants can operate at 25 per cent capacity.
Domestic air travel will be allowed only for those who have been vaccinated and can produce negative polymerase chain reaction swab test results, the MP added.
Tuesday’s discussions among ministers on the planned stricter restrictions, ST understands, have been marked by some lobbying by business groups that want the restrictions to be more lenient than the original plan.
This included a suggestion to rethink the plan and instead allow vaccinated employees to work from office, on the basis that an already weak economy and businesses cannot afford to see a further decline in productivity.
Also discussed was whether shopping malls must be shut or can open with a 25 per cent capacity cap.
Under the current colour-coded Covid-19 regime, badly hit regions are red zones that are subject to tougher restrictions – localised lockdowns or PPKM Micro.
Areas that have been designated as red zones include the capital Jakarta, parts of Yogyakarta and the regions of Kudus in Java, Bangkalan on Madura island, Bandung in West Java, and parts of Riau in Sumatra.
Regions with fewer Covid-19 cases are labelled either orange or yellow.
Many have said the current system is no longer effective, and the Red Cross said on Tuesday that the Delta variant is driving Indonesia closer to the edge of "a Covid-19 catastrophe".
The mitigation team of the Indonesian Medical Doctors’ Association on Sunday appealed to the government to impose stricter restrictions for at least two weeks, especially in Java.
They said that maximum enforcement is required, as surging cases have overloaded hospitals.
Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan said in an interview with TVOne on Sunday: “Hospital lobbies, hallways have turned into treatment wards. Emergency rooms have been used as ICUs (intensive care units). This means our situation is really serious.”
Of the total 10,448 isolation wards in hospitals across Jakarta, 9,787, or 94 per cent, were occupied as at Monday, Mr Anies said.
Appealing to all Jakarta residents to avoid any non-essential trips, he said: “This is not a situation in the movies. This is real. Our hospitals are experiencing serious situations.”
Indonesia on Sunday set a new record for daily coronavirus cases, with more than 21,000, bringing the country’s tally for the pandemic to more than 2.1 million coronavirus cases with 57,138 deaths.
Like in other countries, the accelerated spread of the infections fuelled by the Delta variant has overwhelmed doctors in Indonesia.
Dr Ashish Kumar Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, pointed out in a tweet last Friday that about a month ago, the United Kingdom had half the cases per capita as the United States.
Now, the Delta variant became dominant in the UK, and sent cases spiralling to five times that of the US, and there is no sign of slowing down. This is despite the UK's vaccination rate being higher than the US.