Jakarta (Agencies) – Indonesia reported a record high 1,383 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to data from the country's COVID-19 task force (Satgas COVID-19).
Satgas COVID-19 also reported 33,772 new cases, taking Indonesia's total coronavirus caseload to nearly 3 million, with 77,000 deaths. Indonesia is currently grappling with the worst coronavirus outbreak in Asia.
The government is expected to increase coronavirus testing in densely populated urban areas to prevent more major COVID-19 outbreaks, among measures the government will take before it begins easing mobility restrictions, Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said on Wednesday.
The number of daily new infections has fallen in recent days, with Wednesday's 33,772 the lowest since July 6 and a sharp drop from the 56,000 cases reported a week earlier.
Luhut, who was tasked by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo with overseeing Indonesia's COVID-19 response, said the curbs have managed to control the outbreak, with the hospital bed occupancy ratio falling to about 80 percent in some cities from over 90 percent.
If cases continue to fall and other indicators improve, restrictions will be eased starting Monday, he said in a joint news conference with other ministers. "We will be prudent but we want to be careful so that things that have been improving do not take a turn for the worse," he said.
Before the gradual reopening, the government will increase testing capacity, especially in heavily populated places in the Greater Jakarta area and other big urban agglomerations, Luhut said.
"We hope to begin in one or two days and we will do so massively so that when we ease on the 26th, if all goes well, we will underline testing, tracing and vaccination. They will all go in parallel," he said.
The government has also banned entry of foreign workers into Indonesia, except for those with existing permits or on diplomatic or humanitarian missions, until further notice, Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said, quoted by Reuters.
Much of Southeast Asia is currently reeling under a coronavirus surge, as the Delta variant wreaks havoc on nations struggling with vaccine rollout capabilities.
Philippines has warned of a looming case explosion after it detected the Delta variant, while Thailand on Tuesday placed more than 12 million people under a partial, two-week lockdown.
Singapore, which has avoided the worst of the pandemic, said Tuesday it would limit the size of gatherings and ban dining in restaurants after a spike in locally transmitted cases linked to karaoke bars and a fishing port.
About a third of Vietnam's 100 million people were put under stay-home orders Monday, AFP reported.