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WHO: Stricter rules, ‘urgent action’ needed in Indonesia

Country reports record 1,449 Covid deaths and 49,509 new infections - highest in South-east Asia

JAKARTA: Indonesia registered a record 1,449 deaths from the coronavirus yesterday, data from the country's Covid-19 task force showed.

It also reported 49,509 new cases, taking the total tally to more than three million, while total deaths have now surpassed 79,000.

The country has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in South-east Asia.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday urged the country to implement a stricter and wider lockdown to combat surging infections.

CRUCIAL

The WHO said strict implementation of public health and social restrictions were crucial and called for additional "urgent action" to address sharp rises in infections in 13 of Indonesia's 34 provinces.

"Indonesia is currently facing a very high transmission level, and it is indicative of the utmost importance of implementing stringent public health and social measures, especially movement restrictions, throughout the country," it said.

Under Indonesia's partial lockdown, social restrictions such as work from home and closed malls are limited to the islands of Java and Bali and small pockets in other parts of the country. Large sectors of the economy deemed critical or essential are exempt from most, or some, of the lockdown measures.

On Tuesday, President Joko Widodo flagged an easing of restrictions from next week, citing official data showing a fall in infections in recent days, which epidemiologists say has been driven by a drop in testing from already low levels.

"If the trend of cases continues to decline, then on July 26, the government will gradually lift restrictions," Mr Joko said.

Indonesia's daily positivity rate, the proportion of people tested who are infected, has averaged 30 per cent over the past week even as cases numbers have fallen. A level above 20 per cent meant "very high" transmissibility, the WHO said.

All but one of Indonesia's provinces have a positivity rate above 20 per cent, with the outlier, Aceh, at 19 per cent, the WHO added.

The senior minister in charge of the partial lockdown, Mr Luhut Pandjaitan, said the easing of restrictions could occur in areas where transmission rates fell, hospital capacity increased and the "sociological condition" of residents demanded it.

Employer groups have warned of mass layoffs unless restrictions are relaxed next week.

Among other measures, they want all operational staff to be allowed to work at offices and factories in critical and essential industries - which include all export-orientated businesses, hotels and information technology firms. - REUTERS

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