Jakarta extends partial Covid-19 curbs on worries of surge after Christmas, New Year festivities

The transition partial lockdown in Jakarta will be extended to Jan 17, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Indonesia's capital city has extended its Covid-19 curbs called for transition partial lockdown for the next two weeks as it tries to pre-empt an expected surge in coronavirus infections following Christmas and New Year's Eve gatherings and travel.

Jakarta's 98 coronavirus referral hospitals, meanwhile, have continued to report that beds are nearly at full occupancy.

The transition partial lockdown will be extended to Jan 17, and include restrictions on social gatherings such as limiting gatherings to five people and capping restaurant occupancy at 50 per cent capacity.

Active Covid-19 cases in Jakarta have shown an increasing trend and were recorded at 15,471 cases on Jan 2, an 18 per cent rise compared with 13,066 on Dec 20, according to data from the municipal government.

"This percentage increase in active cases merits caution, especially we expect a (further) rise following Christmas and New Year's Eve," said Ms Widyastuti, head of Jakarta's health department, said in a statement on Sunday (Jan 3) night.

The 98 Covid-19 referral hospitals in the capital with a population of 11 million had 87 per cent of their isolation wards occupied. These wards have 6,663 beds for treating Covid-19 cases.

Deemed a Covid-19 red zone, Jakarta imposed a partial lockdown, locally known as PSBB, on April 10 for the first time. This was partly eased in early June into what the officials called a transition partial lockdown.

Jakarta imposed the "emergency brake policy", the equivalent to Singapore's circuit breaker policy, between mid-September and mid-October. The capital has since been on the transition partial lockdown again since mid-October.

Indonesia has previously seen cases spiking following longer holiday periods, such as a five-day weekend between Oct 28 and Nov 1, when many Jakartans and residents of other major cities left town on holidays or to visit family members. This was despite pleas for people to stay home.

The expected rise this time around would be different, however, as it may happen when the hospital bed occupancy has reached nearly full capacity. This calls for stricter measures, according to observers.

Still, Jakarta officials have shown reluctance to go back to the stricter emergency brake policy as lower-income residents are no longer likely to comply as their incomes have been hit hard.

Dr Adi Sasongko, who teaches public health courses at the University of Indonesia, said that any stricter measures do not work in Indonesia, but the authorities may step up enforcing sanctions, monetary fines on people who do not wear or who wore masks improperly.

"Full lockdown measures work in China because its authoritarian government can impose stern measures. It doesn't work in Indonesia," Dr Adi told The Straits Times.

Like other cities across the archipelago, Jakarta is hoping that the nationwide Covid-19 vaccination programme, which may start in the middle of this month, would curb the spread of the virus.

Nationwide distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech began on Sunday.

The distribution exercise comes after state vaccine producer Bio Farma received 1.2 million doses of the vaccine on Dec 6 and 1.8 million doses on Dec 31.

Meanwhile, the Jakarta government is adding more beds to the Covid-19 isolation wards from Jan 3, to bring the number to 7,379 from 6,663 previously, according to Ms Widyastuti. This would be a nearly 11 per cent increase.

Unlike the capital, most other cities, including Indonesia's second largest city Surabaya, do not have ample bed capacity and nurses to treat Covid-19 patients relative to their respective population, due to lower access to resources.

Isolation wards in hospitals in Surabaya and the neighbouring towns of Gresik and Sidoarjo were full by Sunday and they had to reject new patients amid a surge in infections, Kompas daily reported.

On Saturday, Surabaya's Dr Soetomo General Hospital treated 176 Covid-19 inpatients, a significant increase from between 60 and 80 in the period between November and mid-December, the daily cited a hospital director Dr Joni Wahyuhadi, as saying.

"The emergency room is seeing a spike of incoming patients in the same magnitude as that during the June-July peak. Patients kept coming to seek treatment or further treatment," Dr Joni said, adding that eight patients were on a waiting list to be admitted to isolation wards.

Sidoarjo regency-run hospital reported all of its 223 isolation wards were occupied by patients showing either medium to severe symptoms and 18 patients were on the waiting list, according to Kompas.

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