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Highlights in the media today: Govt to provide free COVID-19 vaccine for low-income citizens, Jakarta reimposes PSBB, Govt’s fiscal stimulus program might continue into 2023. 

Research and Technology Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said on Tuesday (September 8) that between 97-98 million PBI (recipients of contribution assistance) policyholders of the BPJS Kesehatan will get the vaccine for free, while the Health Ministry will see how it would be for tnon-PBI-participants.

Bambang said that the government was currently calculating the total cost of the vaccine. The government has allocated Rp280 billion in 2021 for the development of the locally produced Merah Putih vaccine. The vaccine is expected to cover at least 50% of Indonesia’s vaccine needs.

As of September 10 16:20 (GMT+7), Indonesia had confirmed 207,203 COVID-19 cases, with 147,510 recoveries and 8,456 deaths. In the past 24 hours, the government had recorded record-high daily numbers of 3,861 cases.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan announced on Wednesday (September 10) that the administration would reimpose the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) policy starting Monday (September 14) due to the rising number of cases in the capital.

The reimposition of the restrictions, would mean that the administration would not allow non-essential workplaces to operate and must order their workers to work from home. The administration will also not allow the holding of any public activity.

The decision was made considering the high number of daily COVID-19 cases and deaths in the capital, as well as the province’s bed occupancy rate. As of Wednesday, 1,347 people in Jakarta had died from COVID-19.

According to Anies, 77% of 4,053 isolation beds for COVID-19 patients were occupied. In the past week, Jakarta’s positivity rate had also increased to 13.2%, Anies said.

The government’s fiscal stimulus program may need to continue well into 2023 if the Indonesian economy and domestic consumption remained weak next year, former finance minister Chatib Basri said on Tuesday (September 8).

The government should focus its financial stimulus on providing cash transfers for lower-middle income citizens, he said, adding that such programs were “quicker to disburse” and “more effective” in boosting domestic consumption amid the health crisis. The suggestion was also based on the prediction that the government may be unable to provide sufficient COVID-19 vaccinations next year.

Chatib emphasized that getting the pandemic under control was a priority, which would lead to economic recovery. Similarly, Universitas Indonesia (UI) economist Ari Kuncoro said late in August that the government stimulus would only be effective if people felt safe spending their money, adding that health protocols were crucial in reviving the economy.

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