Coronavirus live news: South Africa tightens restrictions; Italy mask-free from today

Indonesia’s health minister is leading a push for stricter controls as coronavirus cases surge to unprecedented levels, according to Reuters’ sources familiar with government discussions.

On Sunday, the country posted its fifth record daily high for Covid cases in the past week, with 21,342 people confirmed as positive, equivalent to over a quarter of those tested.

Coronavirus infections in Indonesia have tripled in the past month, overwhelming hospitals in the capital, Jakarta, and other centres on the heavily populated island of Java.

Three sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that health minister, Budi Gunadi Sadikin, had urged tougher social restriction measures but was overruled. He is continuing to push his case, they said. One of the sources said government meetings on the issue would take place this week.

Citing the need to safeguard south-east Asia’s biggest economy, Indonesia has rejected the lockdowns imposed by its neighbours and similar large developing countries like India. Instead Jakarta has opted for social restrictions targeting villages and neighbourhoods deemed “red zones” due to high infections, a policy known as PPKM Mikro.

President Joko Widodo on Friday said the current strategy was working but needed better enforcement. A spokesman for the president said: “Until now, we still have PPKM Mikro, empirically it is still very effective to control small areas.”

Last week, the head of the country’s Covid taskforce, coordinating economy minister Airlangga Hartarto, banned religious activities at houses of worship, closed schools and bars and required offices, restaurants, cafes and malls to operate at 25% capacity in red zones for two weeks.

Tom Allard and Kate Lamb report for Reuters that adjusting for population size, Indonesia has about 40% of the intensive care beds in India, according to a study last year by Princeton University. On Friday, the health minister announced plans for 7,000 more hospital beds in Jakarta dedicated to Covid patients.

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