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Indonesia imposes tougher curbs as Delta variant drives infection wave

Mosques, restaurants and shopping malls shuttered in virus hotspots after Southeast Asian country records more than 25,000 new cases and 539 deaths in new daily records.

Gravediggers carry a coffin of a Covid-19 victim for burial at a cemetary in Bekasi on July 2, 2021, as infections surge to record levels in Southeast Asia's worst-hit nation.
Gravediggers carry a coffin of a Covid-19 victim for burial at a cemetary in Bekasi on July 2, 2021, as infections surge to record levels in Southeast Asia’s worst-hit nation. (AFP)

Indonesia has imposed a partial lockdown in the capital Jakarta, across the main island of Java and on Bali as the Southeast Asian nation grapples with an unprecedented wave of coronavirus infections.

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Mosques, restaurants and shopping malls were shuttered on Saturday in virus hotspots around the Muslim-majority country, which recorded more than 25,000 new cases and 539 deaths on Friday, both new daily records.

Indonesia’s daily caseload has more than quadrupled in less than a month. But the country’s official tally to date, which stands at 2.2 million cases and 59,534 deaths, is widely believed to be a severe undercount due to low testing.

The crisis has pushed Indonesia’s creaky healthcare system to the brink of collapse with makeshift tents set up outside jammed medical facilities.

Hospital corridors are overflowing with the sick lying on gurneys, and infected patients have been turned away from hospitals unable to cope with the influx.

US to ship four million vaccine doses

United States will ship 4 million doses of Moderna Inc’s Covid-19 vaccine to Indonesia as it battles a coronavirus outbreak, the US national security adviser told the Indonesian foreign minister on Friday.

In a call with Retno Marsudi, Jake Sullivan said the doses would be shipped via the COVAX global vaccine sharing program “as soon as possible,” a White House statement said.

Sullivan said the donation “underscored the United States’ support for the people of Indonesia as they fight a surge in Covid-19 cases.”

The two officials also discussed US plans to increase assistance for Indonesia’s broader Covid-19 response efforts, the statement said.

“Sullivan highlighted the importance the Biden-Harris administration places on Indonesia, Southeast Asia and ending the pandemic more broadly and pledged continued support and high-level engagement,” the statement said.

‘Nobody is safe’

The Delta variant of the virus, first identified in India and now present in at least 85 countries, has been driving the recent wave and accounted for more than 80 percent of new cases in some areas, the Health Ministry has said.

The strain is the most contagious of any Covid-19 variant so far identified.

“(The surge) is primarily because of the Delta variant,” Health ,inister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said on Friday.

“It is in every country, nobody is safe.”

Experts previously warned that millions travelling nationwide at the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in May would trigger an explosion of cases.

The new measures announced by Indonesian President Joko Widodo this week are set to last until July 20 in hope of bringing daily infections below 10,000.

Widodo, better known as Jokowi, had long resisted the strict lockdowns seen in other virus-wracked nations, saying they could tank Southeast Asia’s biggest economy where millions live hand-to-mouth.

But all non-essential employees are now being ordered to work from home, while classes will only be held online.

The curbs will also apply to holiday island Bali, hit by a recent jump in cases that has delayed plans to reopen to international tourists.

Public transport to continue operating

Health experts warned that the tougher measures may not be enough.

The restrictions still allow for often-jammed public transport to continue operating at a reduced capacity, while domestic sea, air and bus travel will be available for people who have received at least one vaccine dose.

“How do you do physical distancing on public transportation?” said Indonesian epidemiologist Windhu Purnomo.

“The government is still prioritising the economy by letting people move around.”

Diversifying supply sources

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country and has been battling one of the Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.

The nation has recorded record new infections on eight of the past 12 days, including 25,830 cases on Friday, and a record 539 deaths.

Indonesia has relied mainly on the vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech, but has been looking to diversify supply sources.

Penny K Lukito, the chief of Indonesia’s food and drug agency, said earlier on Friday it authorised the Moderna vaccine for emergency use.

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