World

Joko defends his government’s handling of pandemic

He stands by no-lockdown decision as it 'would've hurt livelihoods'

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo defended his record of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, asking for no "polemics" or "commotion" amid criticism that he is putting the economy over public health.

The video statement late on Saturday came as the world's fourth-most populous country reported 3,992 new cases yesterday , the lowest daily increase in six days.

The total number of infections was 303,498, Health Ministry data showed.

The death toll rose by 96 to 11,151, among the highest in Asia.

The government's handling of the pandemic since March has drawn criticism from some public health experts for prioritising economic over public health concerns.

The Health Ministry has recently come under heavy criticism from volunteer groups and more generally on social media for what they say is insufficient spending on the pandemic, insufficient protection for health workers, and high prices for private coronavirus tests.

"I can say that the Covid handling in Indonesia has not been bad, indeed it has been quite good," the President said in the statement on his official YouTube account, arguing that the country's total cases and death toll are lower than countries with comparably large populations.

Mr Joko defended his decision not to impose province- or city-wide lockdown in places where cases continue to surge because he said that would have hurt people's livelihood.

"Prioritising health matters does not mean we are sacrificing the economy, because sacrificing the economy is equal to sacrificing the lives of tens of millions of people," he said.

"Overcoming the pandemic is difficult, it requires hard work together, but I'm sure we can do it," he said. "The most important thing in this situation is we should not make polemics and there should be no commotion."

South-east Asia's biggest economy is set to enter its first recession since the 1998 Asian financial crisis this year due to the pandemic.

But the government's worst-case forecast of a 1.7 per cent contraction is better than many economies, officials say.

The President also pledged to order his ministers to improve their response to the crisis and urged people to complain or provide suggestions to the government.

ELSEWHERE

The Philippines recorded 3,190 new cases yesterday, its biggest daily increase since Sept 21, bringing its total confirmed infections to 322,497, the highest tally in the region.

The Health Ministry also reported 100 more deaths, taking its death toll to 5,776.

Malaysia recorded 293 new cases yesterday , taking the total to 12,381 cases. Most of the new cases were recorded in Sabah and Kedah states. The death toll remains at 137. - REUTERS, THE STAR

WORLD