Jakarta. The government has tightened the restrictions level in Greater Jakarta, and Bali in the latest move to anticipate the arrival of the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron, after observing the public have begun neglecting health protocols.
The Greater Jakarta area and Bali would impose level II community-level restriction (PPKM 2) until Dec 13, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut B. Pandjaitan said on Monday. Luhut is in charge of pandemic handling in Java and Bali. The islands had been on the most relaxed restriction level (PPKM 1) since November 16.
Under the level 2 restriction, the general work from the offices is capped down to 50 percent for general business. Essential services like telecommunication, logistics, and finance, can open the office for 75 percent of their employees.
Markets and supermarkets can also open at 75 percent of capacity. All warungs, restaurants, and malls must limit the number of visitors to 50 percent of capacity and close at 9 p.m. Entertainment and sports activities and weddings are capped at 50 percent of capacity. Lastly, public parks are only allowed to host visitors at 25 percent of their capacity.
"We need to be vigilant and on guard by re-implementing the health protocol that has begun to be neglected," Luhut said after an evaluation meeting about the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Java-Bali region on Monday.
"We must be careful of any indications of an increase in cases and mobility, especially during the Christmas period, so that there are no mass infections," Luhut said.
Luhut said the government tightened the restrictions hoping that the public would adhere to health protocols to avoid a significant spike of cases similar to what happened last July when cases peaked at more than 56,000 new cases in a day.
Initial reports from South Africa —the country that first identified and reported the variant— suggested that Omicron could transmit five times more rapidly than previous variants. It has a higher re-infection risk, posing huge concerns to countries worldwide.
A number of them, such as the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the United States, have implemented a travel ban against Africa, where the Omicron variant was first detected.
Indonesia has also imposed a travel ban on arriving travelers to minimize the risk of the Omicron variant.
Indonesian citizens traveling from abroad are allowed to enter Indonesia, following the strict health protocols government. Foreigners who, in the past two weeks, have visited a country or region with confirmed community cases of the Omicron variant are not allowed entry.
Regions close to countries with significant community transmission of the Omicron variant have also been banned, including Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, and Lesotho.
While there are few exemptions to the decree, all international travelers, Indonesian citizens, and foreigners must comply with the provisions of the health protocol set by the government.
This news of the travel bans, a prevention method in anticipation of the virus, quickly heightened the public's fears over the new variant.
However, Luhut urges the public not to panic and reminds them to adhere to health protocols and the 3Ts (testing, tracing, treatment) instead.
"Currently, our testing and tracing rates are already much higher than in November of last year. Our vaccination rate is also above 60 percent, compared to 2020 when the vaccination program was not yet running," he said.
No Omicron Just Yet
Soekarno-Hatta International Airport's health office said on Monday that they have yet to find any Omicron variant in Indonesia but would continue to closely monitor every Indonesian citizen and foreign citizen who just arrived from abroad to anticipate the entry of the variant.
"We continue to carry out strict supervision of every foreign traveler, both Indonesian citizens, and foreigners. For now, there has been no news about the entry of the Omicron variant to Indonesia. Hopefully, this variant can be controlled with this tightening of health protocols," Darmawali Handoko, the head of Soekarno-Hatta's health office.
The government has implemented measures and will continue to update policies while measuring the impact of the new variant.