Indonesia to open malls, entertainment sites as coronavirus cases rise

Indonesian police officers explain protocols on social distancing to people in a shopping mall in Pekanbaru, Riau, on May 28, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - The Indonesian government will gradually open shopping malls, restaurants and entertainment sites from June in an attempt to jump-start the pandemic-hit economy, even as coronavirus cases continue to climb.

Resumption of activities will be prioritised in so-called green zones, which are areas with a coronavirus reproduction rate below 1, according to the Trade Ministry. There are currently 100 such green zones scattered across eight provinces, including the country's capital Jakarta. Semarang, the capital of Central Java province, is deemed as one of the most ready locations, said Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto in a statement on Friday (May 29).

A reproduction rate of 1 means that 10 infected people are estimated to infect an average of around 10 others. The coronavirus has taken the lives of 1,520 people in Indonesia, the highest in South-east Asia. New cases have more than doubled in May, with the total reaching 25,216 on Friday.

Indonesian authorities have taken unprecedented emergency fiscal measures, including abandoning a budget deficit ceiling enacted in the wake of the Asian financial crisis, to lessen the impact of the outbreak. The government has said it is willing to widen its fiscal deficit further to help cushion the blow.

The resumption of activities in several West Java areas that are close to Jakarta is important as they contribute significantly to the economy, Suparmanto said. West Java, with its many industrial estates, is listed as the third-biggest contributor to the economy in the first quarter, according to the statistics bureau.

In the first phase set to be implemented on June 1, only shops selling health equipment or products will be allowed to operate. Stores selling other goods can operate in the second phase, scheduled for June 8. Hair salons, spas, museums and other places of entertainment will follow on June 15, while restaurants, bars and cafes will come next on July 6. The government expects to have all economic activities resume by early August.

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