BLOOMBERG – Indonesia ordered schools to close across much of the archipelago as authorities scrambled to contain a sudden spike in coronavirus cases which included a minister who tested positive for the disease.
Thousands of schools across the provinces of West Java, Central Java, Banten and Bali will remain closed in addition to those in capital Jakarta for at least two weeks, local media reported. Authorities will review if the shutdown needs to be extended beyond March. The government reiterated its appeal for public calm and advised people to limit their activities.
“It is time to work from home, study from home and pray from home,” President Joko Widodo said in a televised press conference on Sunday (Mar 15).
Indonesia has reported about 83 new cases of infection since Friday, taking the total to 117, with five fatalities, after no reports of the deadly disease since the first week of March. Eight patients have been discharged from the hospital.
State Secretary Pratikno said in a televised press conference in Jakarta on Saturday (Mar 14) that Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Jokowi, as Widodo is known, said his ministers had been tested for Covid-19, and he would take the test in the afternoon.
The nation has so far avoided imposing a lockdown or declaring a national emergency.
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“We see several countries with early outbreak imposing lockdown, with all ensuing consequences,” Jokowi said. “There are also countries not imposing lockdown, but are taking tight measures to minimize the outbreak.”
The government is working closely with the World Health Organization and is following its protocols, Jokowi said.
In capital Jakarta, retailers will set shopping limits to prevent panic buying, Governor Anies Baswedan said. The city, with more than 9.6 million inhabitants, is ready to go into lockdown, with Baswedan saying it was time to limit people entering and leaving Jakarta.
The Finance Ministry, as well as several other ministries, allowed employees to work from home under certain conditions. State firms across the country will operate as usual, according to a statement by State-Owned Enterprises Ministry, but the ministry itself will limit its internal activities.
The country’s statistics bureau canceled its regular trade press briefing, scheduled for 11 a.m. on Monday. It will upload the February trade data on its website instead.
Jokowi set up a task force to combat the coronavirus outbreak, weeks after the government faced criticism for not responding faster to detect Covid-19. The task force is headed by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, the country’s main body that leads relief efforts when a disaster strikes.
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