President Joko Widodo of Indonesia said Tuesday he would extend coronavirus restrictions at least until Monday as the country celebrated a muted Eid al-Adha, one of the most important Muslim holidays traditionally marked by large gatherings and the slaughter of cows and sheep.
The country hit a series of daily records last week, surpassing India and Brazil with the largest number of daily cases in the world and establishing Indonesia as an epicenter of the virus.
Many hospitals on densely populated Java island are overwhelmed by patients, and lifesaving oxygen is in short supply. Some patients wait days in tents and hallways for admission to a hospital ward and many others die in isolation at home. Gravediggers struggle to keep pace with the surge of bodies. On Monday, the government reported a record 1,338 deaths.
Mr. Joko said the restrictions on much of Java and Bali islands were needed “so as not to paralyze hospitals due to overcapacity.”
Since last week, the number of reported cases has declined sharply, reaching 38,325 on Tuesday. But the number of tests being conducted has also dropped sharply, from a high of nearly 260,000 on Friday to fewer than 115,000 on Tuesday.
Indonesia had hit a record of nearly 57,000 cases on Thursday.
Mr. Joko, who has been reluctant throughout the pandemic to impose lockdowns that slow the economy, said that if the trend continues, he will begin lifting restrictions on commerce and gatherings in stages.
“This is a very difficult situation,” he said in a video address. “But with our joint effort, God willing, we will soon be free from Covid-19 and social activities and people’s economic activities can return to normal.”
The percentage of tests that are positive has remained at more than 30 percent for the past week, which health experts say is a sign that the virus is widespread and that too few tests are being conducted.
On Tuesday, the positivity rate was even higher: one out of every three people tested was positive.
This was the second year in a row that Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, celebrated Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, under the shadow of the coronavirus. The holiday commemorates the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, Ismail, at God’s command.
This year, mosques in high-risk areas were not allowed to stage the ritual animal sacrifices and distribution of meat that traditionally draw large crowds.
The restrictions, which were imposed July 3, were set to expire Tuesday. They include the closure of malls, sports facilities and a ban on nonessential travel. The government had initially ordered the closure of houses of worship, but later said they were merely advised not to hold services.
In his address, Mr. Joko called on the public to follow health guidance and help reduce pressure on the health care system.
“For this, we must all heighten discipline in implementing health protocols, isolate those with symptoms, and provide treatment as early as possible to those who are exposed,” he said.
Source : Nytimes