June 8, 2020 / 10:27 AM / 2 months ago

Indonesia capital back in business as coronavirus infections climb

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Restaurants, shops and transport services were back up and running in Indonesia capital on Monday, as restrictions were eased further despite the country posting its biggest daily spike in coronavirus infections two days earlier.

Women are pictured wearing a protective face mask and face shield as the Indonesian government eases restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Jakarta, Indonesia, June 8, 2020. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

Offices in Jakarta, the epicentre of Indonesia’s outbreak, were operating with limits on employee numbers while traffic wasted no time in returning to gridlock, with cars bumper-to-bumper and clusters of motorcycles sandwiched between lanes.

After two months without businesses, the easing of curbs was a welcome relief for many, among them Kusnoto, who for 14 years has run a small streetside restaurant.

“Thank God today I can reopen my business, but I’m not sure how the customer traffic will be,” said Kusnoto, 60, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.

His simple restaurant has no hand washing facilities or screens to protect diners, whom he relies on to take their own precautions.

“We can just only hope that the customers are willing to be informed to keep their distance, like sitting on different tables for example,” he added.

Indonesia’s main stock index gained up to 2.5% and hit its highest in three months on Monday as investors cheered the resumption of more business activities.

But it remains the worst-hit country in East Asia outside China, with 32,033 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 1,883 deaths. Indonesia has had no national lockdown and cities have been allowed to impose restrictions, though not all are strictly followed.

Eating at Kusnoto’s restaurant, engineer Abdul Rahman, 30, said he was happy with what Indonesia calls a new normal, but concerned about public complacency.

“I’m quite worried, to be honest,” he said, sitting beside a co-worker. “Many people are just forgetting this existence of coronavirus and think it’s over.”

Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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