Jokowi refuses to lock down as Indonesia’s daily cases soar past 15,000

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ANN) – Indonesia has posted another record-breaking day after the number of new COVID-19 cases surpassed 15,000, just hours after President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo spoke up for the first time since the second wave of infections began to sweep through the country.

Health authorities reported 15, 308 new cases on Wednesday, the highest daily rise since the pandemic hit the country last year.

Just two days prior, the nation passed the two-million mark for confirmed cases.

The country also recorded 303 deaths and a positivity rate of 49.07 per cent – which is the percentage of people tested found to be infected.

The numbers are widely regarded as a conservative estimate because of severely inadequate testing and tracing outside of the capital.

The national COVID-19 task force reported a total death toll of 55, 594, with more than 900 people dying in the past three days alone.

Earlier that day, amid increasing pressure to impose a stricter lockdown policy to anticipate the spread of a more contagious mutation of the virus, President Jokowi insisted that the current micro-scale public activity restrictions (PPKM Mikro) were still the best available option.

A motorcyclist rides past an area in a village in Jakarta that has been barred due to the coronavirus outbreak. PHOTO: AFP

Jokowi said the government had taken into account the country’s economic, social and political conditions, as well as the experiences of other countries, in determining that the PPKM Mikro would be able to limit public mobility while preventing a total economic shutdown.

“I would like to state that the PPKM Mikro and lockdowns have a similar purpose, which is to limit public mobility. As such, there is no need to be against (the policy),” Jokowi said in a press statement streamed live from the Bogor Palace in West Java.

On Monday, Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto announced the tightening of provisions under the PPKM Mikro policy following an alarming resurgence in cases that health experts earlier predicted would follow the Aidilfitri holiday.

Under the new provisions, government agencies and regional administrations, as well as private sector businesses operating in COVID-19 red zones, are required to limit their office capacity to 25 per cent and allow the remaining employees to work from home.

Schools in designated red zones are required to call off in-class learning plans, as all educational activities must be carried out online.

Similarly, places of worship and other public spaces that can potentially draw crowds have been asked to close down “until the situation improves”, Airlangga said.

Essential services, such as supermarkets, drugstores and basic public facilities will remain in operation under stricter health protocols and revised operational hours, the economic recovery committee chairman added.

The second wave of infections has been widely attributed to increased mobility around the Aidilfitri holiday and the spread of the more contagious Delta variant, resulting in dramatic case surges in Central Java, East Java and Jakarta.

The capital was once again the biggest contributor to the nationwide tally on Wednesday, posting 4,693 new cases.