Jakarta mulls reimposing stricter curbs next week to prevent surge in coronavirus infections

A street vendor in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Jan 5 2021.
A street vendor in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Jan 5 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA - The Jakarta municipal government is considering whether to reimpose stricter social distancing measures that would ban dining in restaurants and require staff in non-essential services to work from home, in an effort to preempt any surge in coronavirus infections following the holiday season.

The decision will be made within a week and would be effective for two weeks, starting next Monday, a source told The Straits Times.

Currently, restaurants in the capital city are allowed to use up to half of their seating capacities and workers may go to the office on alternate days and work on staggered schedules. Gatherings are limited to five people.

National Covid-19 task force spokesman Wiku Adisasmito told reporters on Tuesday (Jan 5) that the coronavirus outbreak in Indonesia has become an emergency situation due to a worryingly high hospital bed occupancy rate.

The provinces with high bed occupancy rates are Jakarta, Banten, Yogyakarta, West Java, Central Java, East Java, West Sulawesi, South Sulawesi and Central Sulawesi, said Dr Wiku, a professor of public health at the University of Indonesia .

Jakarta's 98 coronavirus referral hospitals have continued to report nearly full capacities, with 87 per cent of their isolation wards occupied on average as per Jan 3. These wards have 7,379 beds for treating Covid-19 cases.

Active Covid-19 cases in Jakarta are rising, with 15,471 cases recorded on Saturday, compared with 13,066 on Dec 20.

Jakarta imposed a partial lockdown on April 10 that was eased in early June into what was called a transition partial lockdown.

But between mid-September and mid-October, the city had to impose a stricter "emergency brake policy", similar to Singapore's circuit breaker, as cases surged. Since mid-October, The capital has been on the transition partial lockdown.

Indonesia has had experience of cases spiking following long holiday periods, such as a five-day weekend between Oct 28 and Nov 1 and a four-day weekend between Aug 20 and Aug 23. The expected rise this time would be different however, as it may happen when hospital bed occupancy has nearly reached full capacity. This calls for stricter measures, say observers.

Jakarta officials have been reluctant to go back to the stricter emergency brake policy with lower-income residents unlikely to comply with the measures, given how badly hit their livelihoods were in earlier lockdowns. To counter this, the national government would have to help in distributing staple foods and providing more social aid packages if Jakarta goes ahead and reimposes stricter curbs.