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Asia Minute: Jakarta Increases Social Distancing

AP Photo/Dita Alangkara
A woman walks on the sidewalk of a section of the normally jammed Sudirman Street in the main business district in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, March 23, 2020.

Countries have adopted various strategies to combat the spread of COVID-19.  So have some cities. That includes the capital of Indonesia — where new social distancing rules take effect today. 

Starting today, gatherings of more than five people will be prohibited in Jakarta.

The passenger load on the city’s normally packed buses will be cut down to half of capacity — to let people spread out. Hours for mass transit will also be cut to between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. — to reduce the overall number of people on the streets.

Schools and workplaces will be closed; religious events and cultural activities will be curtailed.

Indonesia has roughly 3,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — more than half of them in Jakarta. But many suspect the true numbers are far higher. Reuters reports nearly 4,400 burials took place in Jakarta last month — 40% higher than any month in the past two years.

Testing has also not been widespread in the island archipelago, where 270 million people live among some 17,000 islands.

The central government has been hesitant to issue any national restrictions on social distancing — a move criticized by the governor of Jakarta, who has said the federal government has shown “no sense of urgency.”

There are also concerns about medical facilities around the country. The World Health Organization says that on average Indonesia has one hospital bed per 1,000 people.

Just for comparison, China has four beds per thousand people – South Korea has 11.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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