Indonesian Province Orders Lockdowns as Virus Spike Worsens

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Indonesia’s Central Java province is imposing a stricter measure by locking down areas worst hit by Covid-19 in a bid to curb the spread of a more infectious strain of the virus,

About a quarter of 5,700 villages across Indonesia’s third biggest province by population will be affected by the measure, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo said in an interview on Monday. Security forces will be deployed to prevent residents from going in and out of the locked-down areas.

“The situation keeps worsening everyday, “ he said. “We need an extra effort, a national effort. I’m going to force to lock down the red zones.”

The harsher measure is needed as Central Java’s active cases tripled since May and vaccination isn’t going as fast as it should, Pranowo said. At the national level, President Joko Widodo has rejected calls for large-scale restrictions to focus on selective curbs, even as cases hit 2 million last week. He chose to keep a 25% office capacity limit in worst-infected areas and allow shops and restaurants to stay open to keep the economy going.

Indonesia Eases Vaccination Rules as Virus Spread Worsens

In the town of Kudus, the highly transmissible Delta variant was detected widely among new infections, adding to the surge in cases, Pranowo said. The 6.4% fatality rate in the province is also way higher than the national average of 2.7%.

Vaccination is slow among the province’s 36 million people due to a limited supply from the central government, Pranowo said. About 4.7 million shots have been administered so far, mainly to its health workers and about 35% of its elderly. That compares with around 40 million shots that have been administered nationally, government data show.

“Central Java people are willing and have high enthusiasm to get their jab,” Pranowo said. “We are asking for more vaccine supply from the central government.”

Indonesia has reported fresh records in daily cases while deaths are picking up, overwhelming its medical system. The capital Jakarta, the local virus epicenter, is converting general hospitals into Covid-19 dedicated care centers, while turning away those with mild symptoms as the bed occupancy rates exceed 90%. As many as 20,694 new infections were reported nationally on Monday, while Central Java added 2,143 cases in the past 24 hours, latest data show.

Pranowo said he realized the decision may not be taken lightly by the public and is therefore calling for local leaders to implement a Javanese tradition called “jogo tonggo,” meaning “take care of your neighbors” to help each other with food supply and other needs during the 14-day lockdown.

“Ideally, we implement lockdown for the entire Java island for 14 days. No one can go in or out. But most people don’t want to suffer and we will face tough resistance,” said Pranowo.

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