Calls mount for lockdown

Close watch: A healthcare worker checking on Covid-19 patients at a hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) ward in Bogor as Indonesia’s Covid-19 infection rate soars. — AFP

WITH Indonesia seeing significant rises in the number of Covid-19 cases in the past weeks, pressure is piling up on the government to impose stricter restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The Health Ministry announced a record daily rise in the last four months for two days in a row, with 12,624 and 12,990 new confirmed cases on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

While many presumed the high mobility of millions of people during the Aidilfitri holiday season last month had triggered the surge, the situation was likely exacerbated by the Delta coronavirus variant, which was first detected in India and is thought to be more transmissible than other strains.

Despite the exponential case spike, authorities are still relying on the micro-scale public activity restrictions (PPKM Mikro) to curb further transmission of the virus, although many criticised the policy for being too lenient.

Under the restrictions, neighbourhood units and community units are required to enforce restrictions that best suit their level of risk.

The higher the risk of transmission, the tighter the restrictions to be enforced. Public places such as shopping malls are also allowed to operate until 9pm, while restaurants are allowed to have dine-in customers at 50% of their maximum capacity.

Under the previous policy of large-scale social restrictions, restaurants were only allowed to serve takeaway and delivery services, while public places were permitted to operate until 7pm.

Experts and doctors have urged the government to impose tighter wide-scale restrictions to prevent further transmission, as the country’s healthcare system had been overwhelmed with the high number of Covid-19 patients.

Epidemiologist Riris Andono Ahmad of Gadjah Mada University called PPKM Mikro “an illogical policy” from an epidemiology standpoint, as the policy was implemented when cases were already widespread.

“The best approach the government can take now is making sure 70% of the population stay home for at least three weeks,” he said.

Griffith University epidemiologist Dicky Budiman warned this would be the time for Indonesia “to hit the emergency brake” and impose widespread restrictions in Java and Bali, the country’s two most populous islands, as well as large cities in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

“Imposing a lockdown for two weeks is the only way to prevent our healthcare facilities from going into chaos, especially considering other strategies of testing and treatment are still inadequate,” he said. — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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