JAKARTA: Small and medium-sized businesses in Indonesia have been given the green light to resume limited operations despite a government decision to extend coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions for another week.
Partial lockdowns imposed on Indonesia’s most populated island of Java and neighboring Bali began in early July amid a surge in virus infections triggered by the highly contagious delta variant and had been due to end on Sunday.
The latest move by Jakarta was aimed at balancing public safety with the need to restart economic activity.
The curbs, which had ordered the closure of nonessential public places such as shopping malls, for all office employees to work from home — except for those working in sectors listed as essential or critical — and included a ban on in-restaurant dining, have now been expanded to other cities on the islands of Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Papua where there has been a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced the one-week extension of restrictions in a streamed press statement on Sunday and pointed out that the decision was taken in consideration of health and economic aspects and social dynamic.
“But we will make some adjustments in regard to people’s activities and mobility in stages and they will be executed extra carefully,” he said.
The leeway for smaller businesses, the informal sector, and its workers who rely on a daily income, to resume operations will allow eateries with open-air settings to take dine-in customers for 20 and 30 minutes, and markets selling non-essential goods to open for limited hours, depending on local infection rates.
Indonesia has applied a four-tier system for identifying levels of infection based on World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. The capital Jakarta is among 21 regions in Java currently classed in the most severe category level four.
Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, a senior minister in charge of the Java and Bali restrictions, said on Sunday that the continuation of preventative measures was necessary to slow the spread of the delta variant while “ensuring that the small (businesses) can still operate.”
Public health professor, Tjandra Yoga Aditama, former director of the WHO’s southeast Asia regional office, told Arab News that the devil was in the detail when implementing COVID-19 curbs.
“What is necessary is to find a balance for the informal sector to remain operating while the formal sector continues to work from home.
“Markets should also be the main target for testing and tracing and the informal sector workers should be encouraged to contact the local health officers to get tested should they feel any symptoms,” he said.
Indonesia has become the latest global COVID-19 hotspot after a recent jump in virus infections which since mid-July has seen the number of deaths per day rise to more than 1,000, with many patients unable to get treatment in overstretched hospitals.
On Monday, the country reported 28,228 new cases — taking the national tally to more than 3.1 million — and 1,487 new deaths, putting at 84,766 the total number of COVID-19-related fatalities. Daily infection rates are still way above the target set by authorities for the partial lockdown to reduce numbers to 10,000 per day.
In a recent situation report on Indonesia, the WHO said that the country’s very high transmission rate was “indicative of the utmost importance of implementing stringent public health and social measures, especially movement restrictions, throughout the country.”