World

Jakarta gently eases coronavirus lockdown restrictions

Workplaces, shopping centres, places of worship and more to be gradually allowed to open with strict health guidelines

Indonesia has moved to gently ease restrictive measures in its capital Jakarta yesterday, around two months after the coronavirus seized the country to infect more than 28,800 people, kill over 1,700, and place sprawling regions under partial lockdowns.

Over the next few weeks called the "transition phase", workplaces, places of worship, shopping centres and recreational venues will gradually be allowed to open with strict health guidelines, which include operating at 50 per cent capacity and ensuring people maintain a 1m distance from one another.

Places of worship can open their doors today, workplaces, restaurants and standalone retail shops next Monday, markets and malls on June 15, and recreational venues on June 20.

Children and the elderly, as well as pregnant women and the sick, must still stay at home.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan told a press conference yesterday that positive cases and deaths in the capital have been decreasing.

EMERGENCY BRAKE POLICY

He said: "We have imposed social restrictions, which required strength, discipline and patience. It's not an easy thing to do, but we managed to achieve it together. Our collective effort has helped to ease the infection rate."

With what he called an "emergency brake policy", the city administration can reinstate the restrictions should there be a spike in cases and fresh outbreaks.

Instead of a nationwide lockdown, the Indonesian government has opted for voluntary, large-scale social distancing measures, locally known as PSBB, by regional administrations to avoid social unrest and protect the economy.

Four provinces and 26 cities and regencies adopted these measures in varying degrees, the first being Jakarta on April 10. The deadline to lift these restrictions in the city of more than 11 million people was extended twice to June 4.

Mr Anies said PSBB would remain in force as Jakarta moved towards "a safe, healthy and productive condition". A review at the end of the month will decide if the curbs should totally be lifted, he added.

The government's handling of the pandemic had courted public criticism.

In a survey by Jakarta-based pollster Indo Barometer, nearly 54 per cent of 400 respondents polled between May 12 and 19 in seven provinces in Indonesia, including the hardest-hit provinces of Jakarta, East Java and West Java, said they were dissatisfied with the government's response to the crisis.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Malaysia reported 277 cases yesterday, its biggest daily increase.

Of the cases, 270 were among foreigners held at one detention centre in Kuala Lumpur, senior Health Ministry official Noor Hisham Abdullah told AFP.

No new deaths were recorded, leaving the tally at 115.

The Philippine Health Ministry yesterday confirmed 10 more deaths and 634 new infections. Total deaths have increased to 984 while confirmed cases have reached 20,382, of which 4,248 have recovered, Reuters reported.

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