WHO urges action as Indonesia mobility returns to pre-pandemic levels

Aug 19 (Reuters) - The World Health Organization has urged Indonesia to take action to stem transmission of the coronavirus, following new data showing that mobility for retail and recreation has reached pre-pandemic levels in some key regions.

Indonesia, which last month became the epicentre of Asia's coronavirus outbreak, has social mobility restrictions in place, that currently allow malls and restaurants in designated areas to operate at 25% of capacity.

The WHO's latest situation report highlighted "a notable increase in community mobility in retail and recreation" in the provinces of Banten, West Java and Central Java, collectively home to about 97 million people.

Retail and recreation spaces refers to restaurants, cafes, shopping malls, libraries, museums and theme parks.

Based on Google data from the second week of August, the WHO said mobility reached levels not seen since February 2020.

"Formulation of a concrete plan and urgent action are crucial to anticipate and mitigate the impact of increased mobility on transmission and health system capacity," the report said.

Driven by the highly infectious Delta variant, daily coronavirus cases in Indonesia hit more than 56,000 last month, with hospitals on the most populous island of Java short on beds and oxygen and inundated with patients.

Daily cases have dropped significantly to about 15,000 on Aug. 18, but testing rates have also fallen and the positivity rate and death toll have remained stubbornly high.

Public health experts have expressed concern, however, over the spread of Delta in outlying areas with fragile healthcare capacities.

Wiku Adisasmito, spokesperson for Indonesia's COVID-19 task force, said caution was necessary with movement returning to earlier levels.

"This means there's a speedy process of economic recovery but signals our need to be more careful for a rise in cases especially in the next week," he said.

Reporting by Kate Lamb in Sydney; Additional reporting by Stanley Widianto in Jakarta; Editing by Martin Petty

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