The Jakarta Post
A member of Indonesian Young Scientists Forum (IYSF) has lauded President Joko “Jokowi” Wibowo for imposing a social distancing policy to stem the spread of COVID-19, but has urged the government to take a stricter stance by canceling mudik (exodus) this year.
Mudik is the annual exodus that occurs during the Ramadan-Idul Fitri holiday season, when people head to their hometowns across the country to celebrate Idul Fitri with their families. At least 1.2 million cars left Jakarta for mudik 2019, headed primarily to provinces on Java and Sumatra.
IYSF member Berry Juliandi from IPB University said that the social distancing policy showed the government’s openness to suggestions from scientists.
The policy implements distance learning for all schools and universities, restricts public gatherings and advises everyone to stay at home and avoid all but urgent travel as the government increased its prevention measures against the outbreak in Indonesia, which is home to about 270 million people. .
One thing left off the discussion table, however, was whether or not to scrap mudik, Berry noted.
"We are talking about halting the tradition of mudik this year," he told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
Berry, said that mudik would increase the risk of a nationwide outbreak, considering that homebound travelers could potentially carry the virus across provincial borders and the country's many islands.
According to the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, D.C., the country has 17,508 islands "of which about 6,000 are inhabited".
As regards congregational prayers during Ramadan and Idul Fitri, Berry said that the IYSF recommended the government to take up the matter with Islamic leaders.
"Even if there are no lockdowns in the near future, we are calling for a halt to the mudik tradition this year," he stressed.
People will find it difficult to minimize direct contact during the mass seasonal travel, while mudik will pose an unprecedented challenge for the government to keep track of the mobility of its 270 million citizens, never mind detecting COVID-19 cases or tracing their transmission routes. (trn)