Indonesia to impose curbs in Java, Bali amid spike of Covid-19 cases after year-end holidays

Indonesian policemen and security officers at a security check point in Puncak Bogor, Indonesia on Dec 31, 2020.
Indonesian policemen and security officers at a security check point in Puncak Bogor, Indonesia on Dec 31, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA  - Indonesia is imposing tighter restrictions across Java, the country’s most populous island, and Bali for two weeks starting from Jan 11 amid growing fears of a spike in Covid-19 cases after the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Businesses in non-essential sectors will be required to operate with 75 per cent of their employees working from home. Restaurants and cafes can  serve dine-ins at only 25 per cent of their capacity, while malls must close at 7pm.

Places of worship may hold activities but only at half of their capacity. Other social and cultural activities will be temporarily halted, and public facilities closed.

Those in essential sectors and construction projects, however, may operate at full capacity by adhering to health protocols.

The restrictive measures will apply in regions where the fatality rate or the number of active cases exceeds the national average, the recovery rate is lower than the national average, and isolation and ICU bed occupancy rate is above 70 per cent, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto said on Wednesday (Jan 6).

The fatality rate in the world’s fourth-most populous nation of nearly 270 million is 3 per cent, while the recovery rate is 82 per cent. Active cases stand at around 14 per cent.

Speaking after a Cabinet meeting led by President Joko Widodo, Mr Airlangga said the measures were necessary after weekly cases rose by 48,434 in December and 51,986 in early January.

He said the government would be deploying public order officers, police and military personnel to monitor the implementation of the restrictive measures and the mobility of people in the affected regions.

The affected regions include Jakarta and its satellite cities in West Java and Banten, such as Bogor, Depok, Bekasi and Tangerang; Bandung in West Java; Semarang and Solo in Central Java; Yogyakarta; Surabaya and Malang in East Java; and Denpasar in Bali.

The latest move, which Mr Airlangga described as “micro-scale restrictions”, comes as many health facilities struggle to cope with mounting infections.

In Jakarta, 98 Covid-19 referral hospitals have reported that they are nearly-full, with 87 per cent of 7,379 isolation beds being occupied as of Jan. 3.

Authorities expect another surge because previous long holiday periods, such as those between Aug 20 and Aug 23, and between Oct 28 and Nov 1, triggered a rise in infections in the country.

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin noted that the number of active cases had climbed by between 30 and 40 per cent after long holidays, putting more pressure on hospitals and health workers.

“In fact, before the (recent) holiday, our hospitals had been quite full, with some of them being very highly occupied, and our health workers, who have long handled the pandemic, are tired,” he said.

He pointed out that more than 500 health workers had died in the battle against the Covid-19.

Mr Budi pleaded with Indonesians to restrict their movements for two weeks in line with the planned stricter measures.

Indonesia is struggling to cope with the worst Covid-19 situation in South-east Asia and epidemiologists have warned about the potential collapse of its healthcare system.

The country registered 8,854 new cases on Wednesday (Jan 6), a record high for a single day, bringing the total tally to 788,402. Deaths rose by 187 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of fatalities to 23,296.

A national vaccination programme is set to kick off next week and the plan is to vaccinate 181.5 million people in total with priority given to 1.3 million health workers.

Indonesia has closed its border to all foreigners until Jan 14 in a bid to stem the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus, which is more transmissible than its predecessor.