Highlights in the media today: East Java becomes new pandemic epicenter, President warns regional leaders not to hastily reopen areas with high infection rates, Government’s housing subsidies hamper market growth

East Java has surpassed Jakarta as the nation’s COVID-19 epicenter on Friday (June 26) with the highest record of confirmed cases and deaths. As of Monday (June 29) morning, the province had recorded a cumulative total of 11,776 confirmed cases, 896 deaths, and 4,012 recoveries .

It also has the second-highest case-fatality rate (CFR) at 7.6%, higher than the national CFR of 5.1%. Surabaya accounts for half of the confirmed cases and deaths.

East Java COVID-19 Task Force Curative Management Head Joni Wahyuhadi attributed the recent spike to improved testing capacity and active tracing. Joni said that 27 laboratories in the province were now processing samples and were working to increase their testing capacity.

As of July 1 16:03 (GMT+7), Indonesia had confirmed 57,770 COVID-19 cases with 25,595 recoveries and 2,934 deaths.

President Joko Widodo warned mayors and regents of Central Java in a teleconference on Tuesday (June 30)  against hastily reopening areas with high R0 (reproduction rate) and Rt (effective reproduction rate). Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo said that cities and regencies in Central Java with the highest Rt were Semarang (3.69), Kudus (2.74), Jepara (2.17), Magelang (1.64), Grobogan (1.53), and Demak (1.48).

An epidemiology map of the province showed that three regions—Semarang, Demak, and Jepara—are still classified as red zones, while the rest of the regions are orange and yellow zones. Diponegoro University epidemiologist Ari  Udijono said that people’s awareness of implementing health protocols remained low.

World Bank Housing Specialist Dao Harrison warned on Thursday (June 25) that the government’s ongoing housing mortgage (KPR) subsidy programs, such as Housing Financing Liquidity Facility (FLPP) and interest rate subsidies for loan installments (SSB), were slowing down lending growth and discouraged developers from building high-quality homes.

In April, the government rolled out new housing loan subsidies amid the pandemic for 175,000 low-income families nationwide and increased the salary ceiling for eligible recipients to Rp8 million for all types of housing. It has also launched a public housing savings program (Tapera), which required employers and workers to contribute to a mortgage loan scheme.

However, the lower-than-market interest rate made possible by the subsidy has also made it impossible for private lenders to compete in the housing market, the World Bank warned.

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