Indonesian President Rules Out Easing COVID-19 Restrictions Soon

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Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday said that the government would not ease restrictions to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus any time soon.

“There’s no plan to loosen PSBB (large scale social restriction)] soon,’’ Joko told a cabinet meeting.

“It is mistaken to think that the measures have been eased.’’

Speculation that the government is taking steps towards reopening the economy emerged last week after the head of the country’s Covid-19 task force said residents aged 45 and under could be allowed to return to work.

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Traffic in the capital, Jakarta, has also been busier in recent days ahead of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end of the Ramadan holy month.

Large parts of the country have been under partial lockdown since the first Covid-19 cases were reported in early March.

Experts warned that it is too early to reopen, saying that the curve has yet to flatten.

“Letting people go to work with the assumption that they are not likely to die based on hospital data is bad policy,’’ said Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia.

“They naively ignore the fact that asymptomatic people have infected other people and potentially become active spreaders,’’ he said.

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Indonesia rose to 18,010 on Monday, after 496 new infections were recorded in the past 24 hours, said Achmad Yurianto, the task force’s spokesperson.

Forty-three additional deaths recorded overnight brought the number of fatalities to 1,191, he said.

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