Indonesia's oldest zoo reopens with social distancing restrictions; 862 new virus infections, 36 new deaths

Visitors are seen wearing protective face masks while watching the elephants on the first day of reopening at the Ragunan Zoo amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in Jakarta, on Saturday (June 20). - Reuters

JAKARTA (Reuters): Indonesia's oldest zoo reopened on Saturday, but to a fraction of the normal number of visitors, after being forced to close more than three months ago because of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

However, the virus numbers and death toll kept increasing on Sunday (June 21).

Indonesia reported 862 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, taking its total number of cases to 45,891.

Health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said there were 36 more deaths reported, with total fatalities now at 2,465, the highest coronavirus death toll in East Asia outside of China.

Government officials, however, felt it was safe to reopen the zoo.

The 156-year-old Ragunan Zoo, located in the capital Jakarta, is home to more than 2,200 animals, including many of the country's endangered species.

The zoo introduced precautionary measures to reopen, including a 1,000 a day limit on visitor numbers, markers to ensure social distancing, and health protocols.

"We are requiring people to use masks and not allowing pregnant women, children nine and under, or the elderly to visit," zoo spoksperson I Ketut Widarsana told Reuters.

Visitors said they were excited about the reopening and had been worried about the zoo's survival.

"During COVID-19, the zoo had no income from visitors, so I wanted to come support it," Kusmana, who uses one name, told Reuters.

Others, such as Jakarta resident Budi Henry, said he and his wife felt safer in the open air zoo than at indoor attractions and malls.

The zoo is owned by the local government and Widarsana said the animals had remained in good health and been closely cared for during the closure.

Some of Indonesia's smaller zoos have struggled to feed their animals during the pandemic.

The Indonesian Zoo Association said in April that the majority of the country's zoos could not afford animal feed. - Reuters
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