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Covid-19 spike forces Indonesia into emergency lockdown

President announces raft of restrictions after the fast-spreading Delta variant causes infections to hit 20,000 per day

Covid-19 spike forces Indonesia into emergency lockdown

President Joko Widodo announces emergency restrictions on Java and Balio on July 1. (Photo: YouTube)

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has announced emergency restrictions on the country’s two most populous islands following an alarming increase in Covid-19 cases.

It was triggered by the rapid spread of the Delta (Indian) variant over the last two weeks.

In a July 1 statement, Widodo declared that Java and Bali will be under heightened restrictions effective July 3-20.

Indonesia has experienced a significant increase in cases, with 20,000 being recorded per day over the past two weeks. From June 23-29, 138,352 cases were recorded, with 2,748 deaths.

However, these numbers are widely regarded as conservative estimates because of poor testing outside Jakarta.

The Health Ministry also reported alarming bed occupancy rates in three provinces on Java — Jakarta, Banten and West Java — which have surpassed 90 percent, while others elsewhere on the island are also feeling the strain.

Restaurants will only be allowed to offer takeaway services and public transport will operate at 70 percent capacity

"This situation requires us to take more decisive steps to stem the Covid-19 tide," Widodo said.

According to Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, the coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment who is in charge of implementing the new measure, a host of public services and facilities will be hit, including houses of worship.

Restaurants will only be allowed to offer takeaway services and public transport will operate at 70 percent capacity.

People traveling long distances on planes, buses and trains must show proof that they have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and tested negative for the virus two days prior to their journey.

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Religious leaders welcomed the measure and called on people to follow them.

Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, an activist priest, said it was the right move.

“The key to its implementation, however, is discipline among the populace,” he said.

He feared people would flout the rules because many have grown frustrated and tired of the pandemic.

"At this time it takes togetherness among citizens to remind each other and strengthen each other to be faithful to the health protocols," he said.

Meanwhile, Agus Samsudin, chairman of the Covid-19 Command Center of the second-largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, said this policy needs to be accompanied by law enforcement and provide social security for economically affected families.

He also hopes for attention to the availability of facilities for Covid-19 patients as many hospitals are at full capacity.

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