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Indonesia planning stricter rules on mobility, social distancing

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JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo said yesterday he has planned stricter rules on mobility and social distancing, as a study presented to the government warned of a risk of more than 140,000 coronavirus deaths by May without tougher action.

Medical experts have said the world's fourth most populous country must impose tighter movement restrictions as known cases of the highly infectious respiratory illness have gone from zero earlier this month to 1,414, with 122 deaths.

Indonesia accounts for nearly half of the 250 deaths reported across South-east Asia, but fewer than a fifth of some 8,400 cases that have been confirmed in the region.


Most infections in Indonesia have been concentrated in and around the capital Jakarta.

The city of 10 million people has declared a state of emergency which shut down schools and public entertainment, but so far there has been no full public lockdown.

"I'm (now) ordering large-scale social limits, physical distancing needs to be done more sternly, more disciplined, and effectively," Mr Widodo told a Cabinet meeting, adding that only the central government could decide on regional quarantines.

President Widodo has encouraged social distancing, but questioned whether Indonesians have the discipline for full lockdowns, in contrast with other South-east Asian nations.

But he appears to have reconsidered after public health experts presented a prediction model to Indonesia's planning agency Bappenas on Friday, underlining a need for stronger intervention to prevent a rapid rise in cases and deaths.

The model said Indonesia could instigate three stages of intervention - mild, moderate, and high. The latter would include very significant levels of testing and make physical distancing mandatory.

With mild intervention, which includes optional physical distancing and limiting public crowds, the researchers from the University of Indonesia said the virus death toll could soar to over 140,000 among over 1.5 million cases by May.

"These are just conservative estimates," Mr Pandu Riono, one of the researchers, said. "But we have to be ready even in these circumstances." - REUTERS