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Indonesia formulating tighter COVID-19 measures, public should not panic over WhatsApp messages: Minister's spokesperson

JAKARTA: The Indonesian government is formulating tighter measures to curb a second wave of COVID-19 infections, said a minister’s spokesperson, while urging the public to stay calm amid speculation on social media over a possible lockdown.

This came after media reports that Indonesia is expected to impose a lockdown as cases spike, driven by the Delta variant.

In a statement issued on Tuesday (Jun 29), Mr Jodi Mahardi, a spokesperson for coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment Luhut Pandjaitan, said he wanted to “clarify the news circulating in WhatsApp groups” on potentially stricter restrictions.

He noted that Mr Pandjaitan has been appointed by President Joko Widodo as the emergency PPKM (community-level public activity restrictions enforcement) coordinator for Java and Bali.

“Currently, the tighter measures to be taken are being formulated.  An official announcement will be made by the government, said Mr Mahardi.

“Supermarkets, malls and other essential sectors will continue to operate with shortened operating hours and strict procedures.”

He added: “Please don't panic over the news circulating in the WhatsApp groups … All parties (should) continue to carry out strict health protocols, vaccinate for those who are healthy and stay alert.”

When contacted by CNA on Wednesday, the spokesperson said: “We shall wait for the official announcement.”

READ: Jokowi says Sinovac COVID-19 vaccination can begin for those aged 12 to 17 immediately

Since Indonesia announced its first COVID-19 cases in early March last year, the government has opted against total lockdowns that would bar people from freely leaving their homes.

In late March last year, the president signed a regulation for cities and provinces to enforce large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) under which non-essential workers must work from home, students had to study at home and places of worship were closed. 

PSBB curbs were relaxed earlier this year and PPKM was introduced, which allows local leaders to restrict movement within their communities. PPKM is currently in force in all 34 provinces.

According to reports, the upcoming new restrictions may be called PPKM Emergency.

READ: Indonesia's COVID-19 situation nears 'catastrophe', says Red Cross

The spike in COVID-19 cases in Indonesia comes as many people ignored a travel ban during last month’s Idul Fitri holiday, travelling back to their hometowns and crowding tourist spots. 

The hike in cases is predicted to continue until at least the beginning of July as previous holidays tended to result in a spike of infections up to seven weeks. 

As of Wednesday morning, Indonesia recorded 2,156,465 cases and 58,024 deaths.

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Source: CNA/ks


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