News Coronavirus ‘Not under control’: Coronavirus threatens to overrun Indonesia’s capital
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‘Not under control’: Coronavirus threatens to overrun Indonesia’s capital

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Australians are currently barred from leaving the country unless an exception is granted, and many of our favourite overseas holiday destinations are closed or fighting coronavirus surges.

Neighbouring Indonesia is currently battling a massive coronavirus outbreak in its capital, Jakarta, home to around 10 million people, and international tourists are banned from island paradise Bali until 2021.

Jakarta will return to partial lockdown from next week following a surge in COVID-19 cases that threatened to overwhelm the city’s hospitals.

On Wednesday, city governor Anies Baswedan said he was forced to pull the “emergency brake” and reimpose social restrictions, with residents told to work, study and pray at home.

Right now, this is an emergency – more pressing than the start of the pandemic,” Governor Baswedan said.

“Please don’t go out, don’t leave home and do not leave Jakarta unless necessary”.

Indonesia has been battling the pandemic since March, drawing criticism from public health experts for prioritising economic over public health concerns.

The Southeast Asian nation has recorded more than 203,000 cases of the coronavirus and 8336 deaths, the highest COVID-19 death toll in East Asia.

“Like all countries, Indonesia is trying to balance the health imperative to control the virus, with the need to keep the economy ticking along and sustain livelihoods,” Associate Professor Jeffrey Neilson from the School of Geosciences and the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, University of Sydney said.

“Since it implemented its ‘New Normal’ policy in July, it has largely chosen to prioritise the economy.”

Indonesia’s decision to prioritise the economy over health has been criticised. Photo: AAP

However, the recent surge in cases shows that the decision to prioritise the economy over health “may have dire consequences for the population”, Dr Neilson said.

“And yet, the government’s social protection programs are struggling to protect the sheer number of livelihoods shattered by the economic fallout,” he said.

“Worst hit are urban jobs, and those in hospitality and tourism, while agriculture is once again providing something of a refuge for the displaced.”

‘Not under control’

Jakarta’s doctors have warned the coronavirus pandemic is “not under control”, with intensive care units nearing full capacity.

The capital city has recorded more than 1000 new coronavirus cases on average each day this month, with the rising caseload placing considerable strain on hospitals in the world’s fourth most populous nation.

“It is like we have been running a marathon since March, we are exhausted,” said Erlina Burhan, a pulmonologist from Persahabatan Hospital. “This is not to be underestimated. The situation is not under control.”

The number of patients being treated for suspected cases of COVID-19 tripled from July to August at Persahabatan, Jakarta’s main referral hospital.

Without tighter social restrictions, hospitals may be forced to turn coronavirus patients away by as early as September 17, data from the Jakarta government showed.

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the global travel industry into chaos, and international holidays are off the agenda for Australians for some time to come.

Bali’s tourist ban

Last month, Indonesia announced that foreign visitors to Bali would be banned until the end of December.

Bali has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent days.

The resumption of domestic tourism may be to blame for the rise in cases, according to the head of Udayana University’s School of Public Health I Made Ady Wirawan.

Reopening domestic tourism “appears to indicate to the public that the situation is safe when many transmissions are still occurring”, Dr Ady said.

“The spike in cases show that COVID-19 pandemic is not under control in Bali, and the officially reported numbers may just be a portion of the real number of cases among the public,” he said.

-with AAP