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Jakarta Post

Indonesia says only regions with zero, declining cases can brace for 'new normal'

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, May 28, 2020   /   01:09 pm
Indonesia says only regions with zero, declining cases can brace for 'new normal' People wearing protective face masks shop at a supermarket amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 in Tangerang on May 26. Businesspeople remain cautious about the government’s plan to gradually reopen the economy under health protocols to establish a “new normal” amid the continued rise of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Indonesia. (Reuters/Willy Kurniawan)

As Indonesia braces to gradually reopen the economy, the government has announced that the country's regions should meet two main conditions to be able to ease COVID-19 mobility restrictions and start welcoming the so-called "new normal".

Regions should either have maintained zero COVID-19 cases or have witnessed a significant decrease in the number of infections to relax curbs and reopen businesses under health protocols, COVID-19 task force chief Doni Monardo said.

"There are a total of 110 regencies and cities with no COVID-19 cases so far," Doni said on Wednesday, “Of the figure, except Papua, as many as 65 areas on the mainland and 22 areas on islands will be offered to reopen normally."

The 110 regencies and cities include those located in a number of provinces, including in Aceh, Riau, North Kalimantan, Maluku and Jambi, according to the government's data.

Doni said the areas were nearly sterile, though not fully safe, from the disease because the residents living in the regions had adhered to health protocols during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Meanwhile, regions categorized as "green zones" -- namely those that have recorded COVID-19 cases but have been seeing a declining rate of virus transmission -- in accordance with the World Health Organization's (WHO) indicators will be considered to reopen, Doni said.

Among the indicators is that regions should see a 50 percent decline in the number of confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases for more than two weeks as well as a significant decline in COVID-19 fatalities.

A declining number of COVID-19 patients and suspected cases in hospitals will also determine whether a region is allowed to reopen its economy.

Read also: 'I don't think we can wait': Business groups ready for 'new normal' despite risks

Doni added that regions should also meet other conditions to be able to reopen, including recording an increase in the number of recoveries, an increase in the number of completed monitoring procedures against COVID-19 suspects, an increase in specimen testing in the period of two weeks and scoring a basic reproduction number (R0) of COVID-19 below one.

"We will coordinate further with the National Development Planning Agency and the Coordinating Economic Ministry with regard to easing restrictions in regions,” Doni said, adding that the final decision would also depend on local administrations' preparedness to face the new normal.

Previously, several provincial administrations reportedly prepared to reopen businesses in the regions. On the resort island of Bali, for instance, hotels have been drafting guidelines for health protocols under the so-called "new normal" situation as the local government signaled to reopen tourist destinations gradually.

West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil has also announced that the province should brace for a "new normal" starting on June 1, reported on Wednesday.

With regard to preparing the country for the new normal scheme, Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto issued on Saturday a new health protocol for workplaces to ensure that businesses continue to run while maintaining efforts to contain the coronavirus.

Epidemiologists, however, have warned the government to be prudent in making the decision to reopen the economy, arguing that the country was continuing to see a rise in COVID-19 cases.

On Wednesday afternoon, Indonesia reported 686 new COVID-19 cases nationwide, bringing the total to 23,851 confirmed cases with 1473 fatalities. (trn)