Jakarta to reimpose restrictions as Covid-19 cases continue to surge

Jakarta will reinstate restrictions similar to those imposed from April until June. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan on Wednesday (Sept 9) said that strict restrictive measures would be reimposed in the Indonesian capital as Covid-19 cases continued to surge.

At a press conference late in the day, he said large-scale social restrictions, which had gradually been eased since June 4, would be tightened again. The easing of measures led to, among other things, the reopening of businesses and workplaces as well as parks and tourist destinations.

"We are now in an emergency situation, on a greater scale than we were in the earlier phase of the outbreak. Do not leave home if it's not essential. Do not leave Jakarta if there is no urgent purpose," Mr Anies said via a livestreaming video on Facebook.

"We are forced to reimpose the PSBB (semi-lockdowns) as we did at the onset of the pandemic," he added.

Mr Anies did not say when the restrictions would return, but announced that employees in non-essential sectors would have to go back to working from home from Sept 14.

"Businesses may continue to operate, but the activities in the offices must stop for now," he said.

Mr Anies added that all entertainment centres managed by the Jakarta city administration would be closed. Restaurants and cafes may remain open, but customers would not be allowed to dine in. Travellers entering and leaving the city would be restricted.

He said the government would provide assistance to those in need.

A city of 10 million, Jakarta has the dubious distinction of being the first epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country. It reported 1,004 fresh cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases in the city to 49,397. The capital also reported 17 new deaths, bringing total fatalities to 1,334.

The country as a whole has reported 203,342 cases and 8,336 deaths. The death toll in Indonesia is the highest in South-east Asia.

Mr Anies said that the healthcare sector was finding it difficult to cope even though the government had moved to increase the number of beds and intensive care units at hospitals.

The occupancy rate of isolation rooms at the city's 67 Covid-19 referral hospitals has reached 77 per cent, and the rate for ICUs has hit 83 per cent, the city's administration revealed earlier this week.

Noting that the hospitals would reach full capacity by Sept 17, Mr Anies said the authorities are planning to increase capacity by about 20 per cent as they engage more private hospitals to treat coronavirus patients. This will increase isolation beds from 4,053 to 4,807.

"Increasing capacity to 4,807 (isolation beds), if it were not coupled with strict efforts to curb the spread of the virus, we would reach this new capacity by the second week of October," Mr Anies added.

Reuters news agency, quoting experts from Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (NTU), said hospitals in Jakarta could reach full capacity this month if stricter measures were not imposed. They forecast the death toll in Jakarta could reach 3,000 by next month.

"Faced with the emergency situation, Jakarta doesn't have any choice other than pulling the emergency brake as soon as possible," the governor said.

"Once again, this is to save Jakarta residents. If the situation is not controlled, hospitals will not be able to accommodate (patients) and this will lead to a higher number of deaths in Jakarta," he added.

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