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Jakarta Post

Lockdown not yet an option for Indonesia, says President

  • Marchio Irfan Gorbiano and Ivany Atina Arbi

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, March 16, 2020   /   07:38 pm
Lockdown not yet an option for Indonesia, says President President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo delivers a national address on the government's COVID-19 prevention and control measures on March 15, 2020 at Bogor Palace, West Java. (Antara/Sigid Kurniawan)

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo asserted on Monday that imposing a lockdown was not in the works for Indonesia or any of its 34 provinces, saying that citizens should instead practice "social distancing" to contain the spread of COVID-19.

As Indonesian authorities scrambled to prevent wider transmission of the novel coronavirus that has spread to at least eight provinces, Jokowi stressed that the government was "not leaning toward issuing a lockdown policy" at this time.

"I have to emphasize that issuing a lockdown policy, either at the national or regional level, is under the authority of central government. Such a policy cannot be issued by regional administrations," he told a press conference on Monday.

The President said what important was for the public to implement what infectious disease specialists called "social distancing" to curb the spread of disease – in the case of COVID-19, maintaining a distance of at least 2 meters to minimize close contact. 

He also advised the public to work, learn and worship from home. 

Jokowi said that all public transportation, including buses and trains, would continue to operate as normal to accommodate those who needed to venture out and to avoid passenger buildup.

Experts and scientists earlier called for the government to impose a lockdown and restrict the movement of individuals in areas that had been deemed hot zones of the COVID-19 outbreak to prevent wider spread of the disease.

Read also: Stay home, President says

They said a lockdown should be in place ahead of the Ramadan fasting month in April and the Idul Fitri holiday in May, arguing that mudik (annual exodus) during the major Islamic holiday might heighten the risk of a nationwide epidemic.

The Jakarta administration on Monday imposed a restriction on the operational hours of public transportation to contain the virus' spread, but the policy appears to have backfired with large crowds and long queues at Transjakarta and MRT Jakarta stations throughout the capital.

City-owned bus operator Transjakarta is operating only 13 of its 248 routes, with an estimated 20-minute headway per bus. As a result, long lines that stretched onto streets and sidewalks formed at bus shelters, while the shelters became filled with waiting passengers.

Crowds and long lines of passengers were also seen at MRT Jakarta stations. The operator was operating a reduced number of cars per train from the usual 16 to just four cars, which slashed the maximum passenger capacity from 300 to 60 people per car.

"All major policies at the regional level should first be discussed with the central government before they are implemented," Jokowi said.

Indonesia reported on Monday a total of 134 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including five deaths. 

Regional heads in several areas – including Jakarta, Banten and West Java – have decided to temporarily close schools and public areas in an effort to contain the outbreak. (vny)