Highlights in the media today: Lab workers grapple with piling samples, Jakarta to enter ‘transitional PSBB’, World Bank: Indonesia’s economy may shrink by 3.5% if PSBB last for four months

Laboratory workers in Indonesia were grappling with an unprecedented scale of testing for COVID-19, as samples piled up and overwhelmed short-handed laboratories. A shortage of lab workers capable of running the tests has hindered mass testing efforts.

Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) Biotechnology Research Center Head Puspita Lisdiyanti criticized the Health Ministry’s decision to allow more laboratories to process the tests in April, saying that laboratories needed much more time to prepare.

LIPI has, since March, virtually trained 600 lab workers across the country and trained 10 non-LIPI staffers to be sent to other labs. However, mobility restrictions and physical distancing made it difficult to train workers from other regions due to the uneven distribution of lab workers across Indonesia, Puspita said.

As of June 5 12:08 (GMT+7), Indonesia had recorded 29,521 COVID-19 cases with 9,443 recoveries and 1,770 deaths.

The Jakarta administration has decided to ease large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) and enter a period of so-called “transitional PSBB“, which will be implemented until the end of June. The transitional PSBB will allow businesses, houses of worship, and public places to gradually reopen.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan admitted on Thursday (June 4) that easing the PSBB would increase the risk of transmission but promised that stronger enforcement would be in place, with a regulation of sanctions for PSBB violations to remain in force. Anies said that during the transition period, an “emergency brake policy” would also be in place to stop the resumption of activities should health protocols fail and case numbers surge again.

Indonesia’s economy may shrink 3.5% this year if the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) last for four months, according to a worst-case projection by the World Bank. Under the baseline scenario, however, Indonesia’s economy is expected to have a 0% growth this year, compared to 5.02% last year, World Bank Senior Economist for Indonesia Ralph Van Doorn said on Tuesday (June 2).

He added that the organization expected private consumption to slow down and consumer confidence to decline. The World Bank also predicted a slowdown in investment growth because of weaker economic activity and lower commodity prices.

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