July 26 (Reuters) – Indonesia’s decision to relax some COVID-19 curbs this week, despite reporting record-high deaths in recent days, is being driven by social and economic concerns rather than epidemiological advice, public health experts said on Monday.
As the country grapples with the worst coronavirus outbreak in Asia, President Joko Widodo announced on Sunday that while overall curbs in place since July would be extended for a week, some measures would be eased.
Businesses, including salons, garages, traditional markets and restaurants with outdoor areas will now be allowed to conditionally reopen, while malls will be permitted to operate at 25% capacity outside of designated higher-risk “red zones”.
“The decision doesn’t seem to be related to the pandemic, but to economics,” said Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia, urging people to maintain health protocols.
Hospitals have been filled with patients in the past month,…