Indonesia to Extend Restrictions as Covid Cases Remain High


Indonesia is extending its mobility curbs for another week until Aug. 2 as coronavirus cases remain high following near month-long restrictions.

Adjustments are made in order to allow small businesses to operate under strict health protocols, President Joko Widodo said in a briefing broadcast on YouTube. Traditional markets selling staple foods will open as normal, while shops selling non-food items and other small merchants are allowed to operate at half capacity and shorter trading hours. Dine-in can resume at food stalls and restaurants in outdoor areas under very strict protocols.

Indonesia’s confirmed Covid-19 cases have jumped back to around 40,000 a day after declining from over 56,000 on July 15, while fatality numbers remain at near record highs.

Southeast Asia’s biggest economy has become a new global virus epicenter after exceeding Brazil and India in daily case and death counts earlier this month. The nation registered 38,679 more cases and 1,266 new fatalities on Sunday, according to health ministry data.

Stage-four restrictions, which impose the tightest measures, are in place in 95 cities and regencies across Java and Bali, Luhut Panjaitan, who is in charge of coordinating pandemic response in the regions, said in a briefing Sunday. Malls and department stores are allowed to operate at 25% capacity until 5 p.m. every day in 33 cities and regencies that fall under stage-three restrictions.

To help mitigate the impact, the government will increase cash assistance to those who need it and small retailers are allowed to postpone their value-added tax payment.

Testing Coverage

The government plans to expand its testing coverage by requiring close contacts of those infected to undergo swab tests, Panjaitan said. Those who test positive will immediately be taken to isolation sites provided by the government to prevent a wider spread of infection.

More aggressive testing and contact tracing will help lower Indonesia’s positivity rate. Indonesia’s proportion of those tested who turn out to have been infected with the coronavirus is above 20%, much higher than the World Health Organization recommendation of below 5%. Case numbers in Indonesia are likely four times higher than official figures, epidemiologists have said.

More than 90% of those who died from the virus were unvaccinated, Health Deputy Minister Dante Saksono Harbuwono said earlier on Sunday. More than 90% of new infections are caused by the highly transmissible delta variant, Panjaitan has said.

The Covid-19 mortality rate is lower among vaccinated residents of the capital Jakarta, where a large number of the shots were made by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd., according to a government study conducted from Jan. 12 to July 9.

“Vaccines are effective in bringing down mortality rates,” the Information Ministry said on Twitter late Friday. “The assessment also shows that vaccinated population has smaller chance of getting infected.”

Almost 17,000 out of a total of 5.16 million people under observation got infected despite receiving at least their first jab, the ministry said. Of the approximately 15,000 who had received one shot and got infected, about 50 died. Among almost 2,000 fully vaccinated people, only four died from the disease, showing a case fatality rate of 0.21%.