Indonesia to tighten COVID-19 curbs as infections climb

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Garuda Indonesia aircraft flight GA881 carrying passengers from Narita, Japan, is sprayed with water upon its arrival at I Gusti Ngurah Rai International airport, as Bali welcomes its first direct flight carrying foreign tourists in nearly two years, after it was closed for foreign visitors due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Badung, Bali, Indonesia February 3, 2022. Courtesy of Garuda Indonesia/Handout via REUTERS

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JAKARTA, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Indonesia will tighten social restrictions in Jakarta and Bali, as well as in two other cities on Java island, in a bid to contain a spike in coronavirus infections, a senior cabinet minister said on Monday.

Separately, the transport ministry clarified that overseas tourists would still be able to enter the country through the capital Jakarta, after the ministry indicated otherwise in a statement issued on Sunday.

It earlier said foreign tourists and Indonesians returning from holidays abroad would be temporarily banned from flying into Jakarta, as a further precaution against COVID-19.

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The new statement said tourists with the right paperwork could arrive through Jakarta and Bali airports, as well as via Batam and Tanjung Pinang in the Riau Islands near Singapore.

The Southeast Asian country has seen a jump in cases driven by the Omicron variant, with more than 36,000 infections reported on Sunday and the bed occupancy rate at hospitals in the capital reaching 63%, up from 45% in January.

Senior cabinet minister Luhut Pandjaitan, who oversees the pandemic response in Java and Bali, announced tightened social restrictions in greater Jakarta, Bali, as well as in the city of Bandung in West Java and Yogyakarta in Central Java.

Under the new regulations supermarkets, malls and restaurants will operate at 60% capacity, while capacity at houses of worship will be reduced to 50%, he told a streamed news conference.

Three provinces, including Jakarta, Banten and Bali, had already exceeded infection rates seen during the wave driven by the Delta variant last July, but hospitalisations had remained relatively low, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told the same news conference.

"Don't panic when you see an increase in cases," Budi said.

Indonesian officials have warned the surge in cases may not peak until late February.

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Reporting by Stanley Widianto and Kate Lamb; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Ed Davies

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