Indonesia targets September reopening as it extends curbs until next week

Mass vaccination program at the Jakarta Convention Center building
A man wearing a protective face mask reacts as he receives a dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during a mass vaccination program at the Jakarta Convention Center building in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 31, 2021. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

JAKARTA, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Indonesia aims to start gradually reopening its economy in September, a senior minister said on Monday, as the government announced an extension of curbs on movement until next week in some parts of the Southeast Asian archipelago.

Driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant, Indonesia has over the past month faced an exponential surge in coronavirus cases that has overwhelmed hospitals and seen COVID-19 deaths soar to record levels.

But Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said on Monday the wave of infections had passed its peak, with daily confirmed cases on the decline.

Authorities have imposed restrictions on movement since July 3 and government officials announced the strictest "level 4" curbs will remain in place in some areas in Java and Bali and in other cities.

It was not immediately clear whether there would be any relaxation in the capital Jakarta.

"We must remain alert and continue to take measures to control the cases," President Joko Widodo said in a statement.

Luhut Pandjaitan, a minister overseeing containment measures, said authorities were aiming for more reopening of economic activity in September.

"The reopening of economic activities will depend on vaccination", improved testing, tracing and treatment, Luhut said.

Indonesia launched its national vaccination programme in January, but ambitious targets have fallen short due to logistical constraints, supply issues and vaccine hesitancy.

Less than 10% of the targeted population had been fully vaccinated, according to the health ministry.

Health Minister Budi said the country was set to receive 258 million vaccine doses between August and December, with the possible addition of 72 million doses, enough to meet a target of up to 70 million shots per month in August and September.

The spread of the Delta variant, first identified in India, saw Indonesia's COVID-19 infections hit record highs in recent weeks. The country reported a record 56,757 cases on July 15, and a record 2,069 deaths on July 27.

But while daily cases numbers have started to decline, averaging 33,800 per day last week, the positivity rate remains high and there are fears that the Delta variant could still ravage regions beyond Java, particularly in remote areas with poor healthcare services.

In total, the world's fourth most populous country has recorded 3.46 million COVID-19 cases and more than 97,000 deaths.

Reporting by Nilufar Rizki and Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Kate Lamb and Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by James Pearson and Nick Macfie

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