Widodo loosens Covid-19 curbs
Published on: Tuesday, July 27, 2021
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Customers dine at a restaurant in Aceh, as small shops, streetside restaurants and some shopping malls reopened despite warnings of another Covid wave.
JAKARTA: Small shops, streetside restaurants and some shopping malls reopened in coronavirus-battered Indonesia on Monday after the government loosened a shutdown despite warnings it could unleash another Covid-19 wave.

President Joko Widodo said Sunday that a partial lockdown imposed in early July would continue until August 2 even as the highly infectious Delta variant tears across the vast archipelago nation, which has overtaken India and Brazil to become the global pandemic epicentre.

But restrictions on many small businesses, including traditional markets and ubiquitous open-air eateries known as warungs, were loosened even in the worst-hit areas.

“We’re opening for dining in again,” Syaifurrohman, a seafood eatery owner who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP. 

“I hope Jakarta recovers quickly because this busy place is where we make a living.”

Shopping malls and mosques in less affected parts of the Muslim majority nation also got the green light to open their doors to limited crowds and shorter hours.

Offices were still under shutdown orders, although there have been widespread reports of employers flouting earlier lockdown rules. 

Tens of millions live hand to mouth in the nation of about 270 million, making the strict lockdowns seen in some countries next to impossible.

But Widodo’s government has been widely criticised over its handling of the pandemic and policies that critics say prioritised Southeast Asia’s largest economy over public health.

The government announcement Sunday came just days after Indonesia saw its 24-hour death toll hit a record 1,566, and as the World Health Organization called on the country to impose tighter curbs.

Widodo has pointed to falling daily infection and hospital occupancy rates as justification for the easing.

Official case rates are down, but testing rates have also declined and the number of positive results remains high—suggesting the virus was still spreading quickly.

The Delta variant has been detected in about a dozen regions outside hard-hit Jakarta, densely populated Java and Bali, where hospitals have been jammed with Covid patients. 

Authorities on the holiday island warned that oxygen supplies were running low.  


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