JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia is evaluating whether to end COVID-19 restrictions on movement as planned or extend them, as the country battles with a surge of new infections and a crumbling economy, senior minister Luhut Pandjaitan said on Saturday.
The curbs on movement, which include the closure of shopping malls and a work-from-home order for non-essential workers, on the islands of Java, Bali and 15 other cities across the archipelago, are set to end on July 20.
“Decreased mobility does not indicate a decrease in cases. We are evaluating… whether further extension is needed,” Panjaitan, the country’s minister of maritime and investment affairs told a virtual press conference, adding that the government will announce its decision in a matter of days.
Fueled by the spread of the more virulent Delta variant, Indonesia has reported more new coronavirus cases than any country in the world, data from the latest seven-day average from a Reuters tracker showed. It was second only to Brazil in terms of the number of deaths.
On Saturday, it recorded 51,952 new cases and 1,092 new deaths. The vaccination rate is low at 6% of Indonesia’s 270 million population.
“From the bottom of my heart, I want to apologise to all Indonesians if it (government policy) is not optimal,” Pandjaitan said.
Southeast Asia’s largest economy earlier this month slashed its full-year GDP outlook taking into account the restrictions.
The country’s finance minister Sri Mulyani told the conference that Indonesia will expand its COVID-19 recovery budget to 744.74 trillion rupiah ($51.38 billion) from 699.43 trillion rupiah.
As Indonesia repeatedly reported record infections and COVID-19 deaths in recent weeks, health experts are calling the country Asia’s new epicentre for the virus.
Health services in the country are overwhelmed and requests to help people find hospital beds or oxygen tanks have been shared on social media, while reports of those who died trying have risen.
($1 = 14,495.0000 rupiah)
(Reporting by Nilufar Rizki; Writing by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Louise Heavens)