Jokowi expects Indonesia’s coronavirus cases to peak this month

A woman reacts as a health worker collects nasal swab samples from her in Tangerang. (AP pic)

BOGOR: Indonesia’s coronavirus outbreak will likely peak this month, President Joko Widodo said on Tuesday, adding he was “very confident” about access to a safe and effective vaccine by the end of this year.

The upbeat assessment came as Indonesia — which has one of the world’s lowest per-capita testing rates – saw record new cases on three successive days last week, when 11% of its total 177,571 infections were recorded.

Its 7,505 Covid-19 deaths are the most in Southeast Asia.

“From what I gathered this morning, the peak will still be in September,” Widodo told foreign media at the presidential palace. “After that, it will fall.”

Instead of looking at overall infection numbers, Widodo said people should focus on a decline in active cases, which were about 41,000 as of Monday.

Widodo expects a return to positive growth in the final quarter and that the economy would “approach normal” next year, with spending and investment increasing after Covid-19 vaccinations begin in January.

The government’s “omnibus bill”, which aims to loosen scores of labour and environmental regulations, should be concluded this month and should also spur investment, he said.

“Once we have approval from parliament, my feeling (is that) investment will grow because we will have better regulation and better services to the investors,” Widodo said.

Indonesia’s capital Jakarta and the tourist island of Bali have been hard hit by the virus, and Bali could remain closed to international visitors until November or December.

“The health protocols aren’t ready in the airports, hotels, the restaurants and tourist attractions,” Widodo said.

Widodo also said he had spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping about greater Chinese investment and accessing “best-priced” vaccines.

He expects Indonesia to start its own vaccine production in January and said the country has supply agreements with producers in China and the United Arab Emirates.

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