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Indonesia eases COVID curbs across Java, with tourism set to reopen

Nikkei Asia - September 7, 2021

Erwida Maulia, Jakarta – Tourist sites in Java will reopen gradually and diners can stay for an hour in a restaurant under the latest easing of COVID-19 mobility restrictions that take effect Tuesday across the densely populated Indonesian island.

The government said only small parts of Java – where over half of Indonesia's 270 million people live – remain under the strictest PPKM Level 4 emergency curbs, reflecting continued declines in coronavirus cases and deaths in recent weeks after a surge driven by the delta variant.

But the island of Bali, a magnet for international tourists, is likely to remain at Level 4 for another week, a government official said.

Yogyakarta Province, a major tourist destination in the heart of Java, is joining Jakarta and other major metropolitan areas on the island in having relaxed curbs.

"But [President Joko Widodo] has underlined that the pandemic has not ended. The virus isn't likely to disappear completely. We can only try to control its spread," Airlangga Hartarto, Indonesia's chief economic minister, told a virtual press briefing Monday evening. "So please remain alert despite the declines in cases. They're not evenly distributed, and the situation is still dynamic."

Dining in at restaurants previously was allowed for a maximum of 30 minutes, though enforcement has been lax outside greater Jakarta. Restaurants will continue to operate at half capacity.

The latest easing follows partial reopening of schools that began last week, as well as longer operating hours for malls and traditional markets where visitors are screened using a smartphone app showing their vaccination status.

Indonesia's confirmed new infections averaged 7,700 daily during the past seven days, down roughly half from the previous week and far below the country's record of over 50,000 daily cases in mid-July. The death toll also has fallen to fewer than 600 per day in the past week.

On Monday, Southeast Asia's largest economy reported 4,413 new cases and 612 new deaths, bringing its total to over 4.1 million infections with 136,473 fatalities.

But concerns remain for regions outside Java, including the resort island of Bali, where hospital occupancy rates for COVID-19 patients are still high, the government said.

"We estimate that Bali needs another week to see [its curbs] down to Level 4," said Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the chief coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment.

Indonesia on Monday welcomed the arrival of 5 million doses of Sinovac's vaccine, bringing the total doses of coronavirus vaccines the country has received to 225.4 million. The majority of the doses are from Sinovac, with smaller portions from AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.

As of Monday, 59% of Jakarta's nearly 11 million residents have been fully vaccinated, but the national average is lower at 14%.

Hartarto said Widodo, known popularly as Jokowi, has instructed that inoculations be accelerated in the remote Papua Province, which hosts Indonesia's National Games next month, as well as other provinces where vaccination is especially low – including Aceh, West Sumatra, South Kalimantan and Southeast Sulawesi.

Source: https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Coronavirus/Indonesia-eases-COVID-curbs-across-Java-with-tourism-set-to-reope