Indonesia to reopen economy, resume ‘normal life’ by July

A barber in Jakarta wearing a face mask to protect against COVID-19 gives a customer a haircut. (AP)
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Updated 02 May 2020

Indonesia to reopen economy, resume ‘normal life’ by July

  • More regions are imposing stricter social restrictions amid a surge in infections — many of which have been imported from badly hit areas including Jakarta

JAKARTA: Indonesia is hoping to reopen the economy and resume “normal life” by July, according to government officials.
Doni Monardo, chief of Indonesia’s COVID-19 task force, said earlier this week that the government expects to see a decline in new cases from June, after ramping up testing in April and May and implementing aggressive contact tracing and stricter isolation measures for people exposed to the virus. “In July we would be able to start a normal life again,” he said.
The lead expert at the task force, epidemiologist and public health expert Wiku Adisasmito, stressed that minimizing the risk to human life must take precedence over reopening economic activity, which has come to a halt since the government introduced social distancing measures in mid-March.
“I want to make sure that there is no trade-off between the economy and public health. We know how to bring the economy back to life, but what we don’t know is how to bring our deceased patients back to life,” Adisasmito said in an online press briefing on Thursday. “We are now in process of analyzing and mapping the scenarios to restart the economy.”
More regions are imposing stricter social restrictions amid a surge in infections — many of which have been imported from badly hit areas including Jakarta. There have been more than 10,550 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Indonesia as of May 1.
West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said on Wednesday that leaders in all 17 regencies and cities in the province have agreed to submit a proposal to the Ministry of Health for large-scale restrictions across the province, which has so far only imposed strict measures partially, including in areas that adjacent to Jakarta.
The governor said he expects the ministry to approve the proposal early next week.
According to Monardo, the government is not in favor of enforcing a nationwide lockdown, which he claimed had resulted in “widespread outbreaks posing enormous risks” in “some densely populated regions and countries.”
“The decision not to choose a lockdown was a very good measure as we can maintain a balance between paying attention to health and socio-psychological aspects,” he said, adding that the restrictions in Jakarta — which have been in place since April 10 and have now been extended until May 22 — have had a positive effect, with COVID-19 cases in decline in the capital city.
While Jakarta recorded 142 new cases on Friday, after reporting less than a hundred daily infections over the preceding few days, the city’s official daily death toll from the disease has decreased consistently since mid-April.
Data from Jakarta’s coronavirus website showed that the number of burials taking place in accordance with COVID-19 protocols has been declining since April 22, when Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan announced that restrictions in the city would be extended for another month to help flatten the COVID-19 curve further.


Pakistan rolls out coronavirus surveillance app for incoming travelers

Updated 45 min 51 sec ago

Pakistan rolls out coronavirus surveillance app for incoming travelers

  • 246,351 cases registered since late February

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has developed a mobile app to keep track of travelers entering the country through land routes and airports to ensure a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for those testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

“The app will be rolled out in a few days,” Shabahat Ali Shah, CEO of the National Information Technology Board (NITB), told Arab News this week.

He said the app would help record symptoms of the incoming travelers and keep track of their location. It would also communicate coronavirus test results to them and check if they were violating the self-quarantine requirement.

The government was testing everyone entering the country until recently. Many travelers were kept at big isolation centers established in hotels and marquees for 14 days to prevent the spread of the virus.

According to government officials, the new app will eliminate the costs associated with the old quarantine protocols and maintain a better record of people’s movements.

Pakistan has registered 246,351 coronavirus infections since late February and over 5,000 deaths.

The government has also been carrying out contact tracing to test suspected cases and sent over half-a-million text messages to those who have come into close contact with COVID-19 patients, according to the Ministry of National Health Services.

“We don’t share contact tracing numbers with the public since they keep changing on a daily basis,” Shah said, adding that people suspected to have the disease were requested to get themselves tested.

Discussing the projections, he said the numbers of coronavirus cases would keep changing but that the government’s actions had proved successful in bringing down the country’s infection rate.

“Smart lockdowns in different areas have helped reduce the disease,” Shah said, adding the decision to lock down virus hotspots was taken on the basis of data collected by the NITB.

He said that the COVID-19 curve would flatten if the government properly managed Eid Al-Adha and Muharram processions in the coming months.

According to independent IT analysts, the app would prove ineffective if “big data” was not properly analyzed.

“Developing an app is not a big deal,” Mustaneer Abdullah, an IT expert, told Arab News. “The real task is to extract useful information through the algorithms and break it down in specific categories to achieve the desired targets. The trouble is that government departments lack that kind of expertise.”

He also pointed out that such apps were hazardous to public privacy in the absence of data protection laws since they sought permission from users at the time of installation to access their photo galleries, locations and contact lists to work smoothly.

“The data collected through these apps can also be a goldmine for scoundrels. People working with government departments could leak user information to digital marketers or fraudsters with total impunity.”

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