Calls grow for lockdown in Indonesia after 12 more die from virus

Indonesian health service personnel extract blood from an individual on self-quarantine for a Covid-19 rapid test. (AP pic)

JAKARTA: Indonesia confirmed 130 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, taking the total in the Southeast Asian country to 1,285, a health ministry official said on Sunday.

Twelve more people had died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 144, Achmad Yurianto, the official, said. Sixty-four people had recovered, he added.

Yurianto added that the country had tested more than 6,500 people across the country.

Doctors, politicians and human rights commissioners are calling on Indonesia’s government to enact tighter movement restrictions as the death toll from coronavirus rose on Sunday in the world’s fourth most populous country, which has resisted lockdowns.

A government minister in the country of 260 million said on Friday that a regulation was being prepared so regions can limit movement to stop the spread of the disease, which has killed 114 people in Indonesia as of Sunday, with 1,285 confirmed cases.

But he did not say when the legislation would be ready or how far it would go.

A hashtag that translates as #LockdownOrDie was trending on social media at the weekend, while human rights groups and medical professionals all joined calls for rapid action.

A spokesman for President Joko Widodo did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the demands for movement restrictions.

“There are a lot of people who have called on the central government to put in place a lockdown policy, especially in epicentres,” said Halik Malik, a spokesman of the Indonesian Doctors Association.

He said the association would support whatever approach is taken by Widodo, who has encouraged social distancing but questioned whether Indonesians have the culture or discipline for lockdowns.

That has marked Indonesia out from Southeast Asian countries that have enacted restrictions, such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand.

China, where the coronavirus originated, placed some 500 million people under restrictions at one point. India has ordered a total lockdown of its more than 1.3 billion people.

Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights, a government body, called for a regional quarantine on areas that have been categorised as “red zones.”

The University of Indonesia’s Faculty of Medicine called in a letter for more “local lockdowns”.

Arsul Sani, vice-chairman of the upper house of parliament, said it was ready to support “regional quarantine” measures.

One major concern is whether the virus will spread during the “mudik” – when millions of Indonesians traditionally leave cities for their hometowns at the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in May.

The Indonesian capital Jakarta ordered a state of emergency on March 20, closing schools and entertainment spots. The city of Tegal, which like Jakarta is on the densely populated island of Java, said it would impose some restrictions from Monday.

The eastern province of Papua closed airports, sea ports and land borders on Thursday, but was ordered to reopen them by the central government.

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