JAKARTA: Indonesia on Thursday announced emergency measures on its most populated island of Java and tourist destination Bali as a nationwide surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases threatened to overwhelm the country’s health system.
President Joko Widodo’s announcement followed repeated warnings from Indonesian doctors, health experts, and NGOs over multiple new outbreaks of the contagious Delta variant.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies described Indonesia as teetering “on the edge of a COVID-19 catastrophe.”
The country’s single-day infection rate hit a record high of 24,836 on Thursday and the stringent new restrictions will be imposed from Saturday until July 20.
Following Widodo’s announcement, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, said: “The number of cases has been growing exponentially.”
He added that COVID-19 infections had increased by more than 50 percent on last week and since late May the hospital bed occupancy rate had jumped nearly threefold.
“To be honest, we never predicted that after June there would be another surge,” the minister said.
In Yogyakarta, one of the most densely populated regions in Java, civil society groups aiding local communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak said they were struggling to provide medical assistance as people were dying in their homes, unable to find hospital beds.
Rimawan Pradiptyo, of the Sonjo volunteers’ movement in Yogyakarta, told Arab News: “We have had many cases where patients have died during isolation at home and others have also died while waiting at emergency wards. This is the situation on the ground.”
Indonesia reported 504 new COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday.
Under emergency restrictions in Java, which makes up over half of Indonesia, and the resort island of Bali – that had been pinning hopes to reopen for foreign tourists by the end of July – all employees of non-essential businesses will have to work from home, while shopping malls, places of worship, and public spaces will be shut down, with dining-in banned.
Travel by air or train will be allowed only on presentation of vaccination certificates and a negative antigen test result.
Through the measures, Pandjaitan said Indonesia would try to bring down its daily COVID-19 caseload to about 10,000 and would also be ramping up its vaccination drive.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said the government was aiming to administer at least 1 million vaccine jabs a day.
So far, the country of 276 million people has vaccinated less than 5 percent of its population.