Indonesia’s president says COVID-19 restrictions to be eased

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo said on Monday the government would adjust COVID-19 restrictions over the week Aug. 31 to Sept 6, including for shopping malls and factories, in response to a lower infection rate in more areas, officials said.

More parts of densely populated Java island have been lowered from the most severe Level 4 category, said Jokowi, as the president is known, noting that hospital beds occupancy rates in those areas have dropped over the last week.

Curbs on businesses such as restaurants and non-essential industries will be eased, while the government ramps up the use of a smartphone application for tracing, senior minister Luhut Pandjaitan told a separate media briefing on Monday.

Restaurants inside shopping malls will be allowed to serve dine-in customers to up to 50% capacity, up from 25% now, and shopping malls can stay open until 9 p.m., an hour later than currently permitted, Luhut said.

The government will also run trials for indoor dining for restaurants in major cities that operate outside shopping malls.

All factories can operate with 100% workers, divided into shifts, provided they have secured certain documents from the government, he added.

“We must be grateful for the various developments that we have achieved together. But we still have to be vigilant,” Luhut said. “If we are not careful, we could face another increase in cases.”

The government updates the situation every week and may change the restrictions from Sept. 7 if it sees the need.

Indonesia tightened its COVID-19 restrictions in early July after the Delta variant triggered a surge in infections and put the country’s hospitals under strain.

The number of daily cases has since fallen, reaching 5,436 on Monday, the lowest since June, and compared to a peak of 56,757 daily infections in mid-July.

In total, the world’s fourth most populous country has recorded over 4 million COVID-19 cases and more than 132,000 deaths.

Meanwhile, the tourist island of Bali is still categorised as Level 4, although Luhut expected conditions there will improve soon.

(Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Martin Petty and Barbara Lewis)