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Jakarta to lead the way in Indonesia's easing of antivirus rules

A health worker takes blood sample from a man for a rapid coronavirus test in Bekasi on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, on May 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

JAKARTA (Kyodo) -- The Indonesian government has been preparing Jakarta to be the first province to ease the large-scale restrictions in place in many parts of the country to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, a Cabinet minister said Friday.

    National Development Planning Minister Suharso Monoarfa told a press conference that "the control of COVID-19 pandemic in Jakarta has been good enough," referring to statistics on the spread rate of the disease. As of Monday, the data suggested a trend of declining new infections for Jakarta.

    He stressed, however, that the trend must hold up for the area over the next two weeks to meet one of the World Health Organization's criteria to ease restrictions.

    According to the WHO, one infected person is statistically likely to pass the virus on to somewhere between one and six other people. The average transmission in Indonesia stands between two to three people, while the Jakarta area comes in lower than one.

    On Tuesday, Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan expressed hope that the capital can end its large-scale restrictions by June 4 and enter into the "new normal" era, a way of living under which people would return to their daily lives while continuing to follow health protocols until a vaccine against COVID-19 becomes available.

    Compared to other provinces, Jakarta also has enough beds at hospitals designated for COVID-19 patients and adequate supplies for lab tests, according to Monoarfa.

    Currently, the Jakarta health authorities have the capacity to test 5,500 patients per one million people, coming in above the WHO requirement of 3,500 per million. Indonesia as a whole has a testing capacity of 743 per million.

    WHO Indonesia Representative Navaratnasamy Paranietharan stressed the importance of lab testing in easing social-distancing measures.

    "In the new normal, testing, isolating the confirmed cases, treating them early, doing extensive contact tracing, quarantine the contacts for 14 days in case they develop symptoms -- these public health measures are non-negotiable," he said.

    The Indonesian government aims to ease restrictions despite warnings from epidemiologists over a possible second wave of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

    On Thursday, Indonesia reported 973 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, the country's biggest daily increase, bringing the total number of cases to 20,162 with 1,278 fatalities.

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