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Jakarta Post

Social distancing 'more effective' to curb COVID-19 spread, task force says amid calls for lockdown

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, March 18, 2020   /   06:03 pm
Social distancing 'more effective' to curb COVID-19 spread, task force says amid calls for lockdown A man wearing a face mask over concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus walks in the Baru Market in Jakarta on March 16. (AFP/Adek Berry)

Despite mounting calls for Indonesia to impose partial lockdowns on virus-plagued areas, the government has maintained that such a policy is not yet on the horizon as it deems social distancing to be more effective to stem the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the country.

“Imposing a lockdown will cause economic losses and therefore we still think that social distancing is more effective to halt the spread of the virus,” Wiku Adisasmito, an expert with the government-formed COVID-19 task force, told journalists on Wednesday.

A lockdown, he said, would hurt the economy and particularly affected residents whose lives depended on making hourly wages, as they would not be able to go to work and subsequently could not make ends meet.

It would also terminate economic activities, including small businesses and household businesses, as restrictions on movements meant all residents would be forced to stay home during the lockdown period, he said.

Read also: COVID-19: Indonesia records highest death toll in Southeast Asia at 19

“Due to its impact on the economy, we will not go further to impose the policy," he added.

Pressure is currently mounting for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to impose partial lockdowns on regions deemed to be hot zones for COVID-19 and follow in the footsteps of the country's neighbors — Malaysia and the Philippines — and several European countries by taking the drastic measure to stem the transmission of the disease.

A group of scientists from the Indonesian Young Scientists Forum has called on the Jokowi administration to impose a partial lockdown on certain areas to prevent sustained community transmission before the Idul Fitri exodus, during which millions of Muslims travel to their hometowns to celebrate the religious festivity. 

However, Wiku emphasized that the government so far maintained that social distancing would be enough to restrain the virus, which is known to spread quickly when an infected person is in close proximity to other people.

“We urge the public to keep their distance from others: no handshaking, wash hands regularly, avoid crowds and always use masks in crowded places,” he said. (glh)