Indonesia imposes stricter restrictions to prevent spike after year-end holidays

JAKARTA (XINHUA) – Indonesia has been imposing stricter restrictions from December 18 to January 8, 2021 to prevent a spike in COVID-19 cases after the year-end holiday seasons, officials said.

Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said the number of daily cases and deaths rose after long holidays at the end of October this year, especially in Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, East Java, South Sulawesi, North Sumatra, Bali and South Kalimantan.

“Previously, the trend of the cases in these areas decreased,” Pandjaitan, concurrently a deputy chairman of the National Committee for the COVID-19 Mitigation and Economic Recovery, told a meeting with ministers and regional heads.

Every year in Indonesia, there is an exodus of people who work in major cities returning to their villages or towns of origin for family gatherings or just travelling during the year-end holidays.

This time, to deal with the exodus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has forbidden celebrations and gatherings of more than five people in public areas, and limited hours of service activities.

Health workers check the condition of a patient at a temporary isolation centre in Patriot Candrabagha complex stadium, Bekasi, Indonesia. PHOTO: XINHUA

Jakarta Deputy Governor Ahmad Riza Patria also emphasised that there would be no year-end celebrations in the capital city this year.

The Jakarta administration also limited operational hours for offices, malls, cafes, restaurants, places of interest and tourist attractions to 7pm local time with a maximum capacity of 50 per cent each.

Meanwhile, Jakarta’s Governor Anies Baswedan said, “We want them to remain at home.”

The central government also required people travelling to Jakarta and Yogyakarta province during that period to show negative antigen rapid test results.

Bali, which required people only to show rapid test results, now obliges them to bring negative swab test results.

In the meantime, South Tangerang city in Banten province does not require rapid antigen or swab test results, but encouraged the community in the city to strengthen micro-scale social restrictions, Mayor Airin Rachmi Diany said.

The South Tangerang administration also prohibited any gathering and limited the operating hours of malls and restaurants to 7pm as was done in the provinces of Lampung, West Java, and North Sulawesi.

National COVID-19 Task Force Spokesperson Wiku Adisasmito said the rise in the COVID-19 cases did not only occur during the long weekend last October but also happened after the Aidilfitri holidays in May and the Independence Day vacation in August this year.

The spike in the cases could trigger next impacts such as fully occupied hospitals and increases in medical workers’ burdens, Adisasmito said.

Meanwhile, the occupancy rates of isolation rooms and intensive care units at hospitals in several areas have exceeded 70 per cent due to the soaring number of daily COVID-19 cases.

Adisasmito noted that the average active cases in December were recorded at 14.39 per cent of the total COVID-19 cases, up from 13.78 per cent last month.

To achieve herd immunity and end the pandemic, President Joko Widodo said the government would provide the people with the COVID-19 vaccines for free.

“So there is no more reason that the public would not get the vaccines,” Widodo said on Thursday. The president also emphasised that he would be among the first to be vaccinated in Indonesia to convince the public that the vaccine is safe.