Business braces for impact as Jakarta heads into second lockdown

JAKARTA, Sept 14 (Reuters) – The markings of a rollercoaster year are plastered over Sutiwet’s small Jakarta restaurant – plastic barriers on the counters, stickers on the glass urging customers to wear masks, and a gallon of water out front for people to wash their hands.

But just as life in the Indonesian capital was starting to return to normal, the city’s 10 million residents are heading into partial lockdown for the second time.

Jakarta’s tightened social restrictions, effective from Monday for two weeks, mean businesses, malls and houses of worship can only operate at limited capacity, while dining in at restaurants and cafes is not allowed.

Small business owners such as Sutiwet, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name, are bracing themselves for the economic impact.

“We almost managed to survive the first round of large-scale social restrictions, and here comes another one,” Sutiwet, 45, told Reuters.

“For now, I am relieved that we are almost surviving, but it will definitely have an impact on income.”

The second round of social restrictions, known locally as “PSBB”, comes amid a spike in COVID-19 cases and as Jakarta’s 67 designated coronavirus hospitals near full capacity.

The capital has recorded a daily average of more than 1,000 new cases this month, with 43,400 cases in total and 1,330 deaths since March, according to government data.

Months into the pandemic businesses are feeling the crunch, said Shinta Khamdani, from the Indonesian employers’ association.

“This (PSBB) policy is very deadly for us, depressing demand so much so that there is no driver for businesses to improve our economic performance,” said Khamdani. “Right now, businesses are desperately trying to maintain their existence.”

If social restrictions are implemented long term, many small and medium enterprises would not survive, she said.

With more than 218,000 coronavirus cases nationally, Indonesia’s government has the difficult challenge of balancing health and economic concerns, as the country faces a recession in the third quarter.

Heading to work on Monday, Lila Pratiwi, 34, said she was trying to adapt.

“Public transportation is my biggest concern, the government should pay attention as most of the new clusters are from offices and public transport,” she said. “That’s why I decided to walk today.” (Additional reporting by Maikel Jefriando; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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