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Jakarta Post

Lockdown already in place? NGOs question government’s physical distancing policy

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, March 25, 2020   /   04:29 pm
Lockdown already in place? NGOs question government’s physical distancing policy The Blok M Square shopping center is empty after Indonesia's capital begins a two-week emergency period to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Jakarta on March 24. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

A coalition of civil society groups is calling on the House of Representatives to perform its checks and balances function during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the government’s policies are on the right track.  

The government has yet to formulate clear policies to address the pandemic, said the coalition, which comprised a number of NGOs, including Amnesty International Indonesia, Transparency International Indonesia and the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute.  

The coalition, for instance, questioned why the government had not yet declared a lockdown even as it has been asking members of the public to be disciplined in practicing physical distancing.  

“The central government rejected calls for a lockdown but the call for people to stay at home has become coercive. This is evident from the use of the police force to disband gatherings and the announcement that those who break the [gathering] prohibition could be prosecuted,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.  

The vague policy had disadvantaged the Indonesian people, particularly blue collar workers, online taxi drivers and traditional sellers who still have to work every day, it said. The government, it argued, should legally declare a lockdown and subsidize those affected by the policy so everyone could stay at home. 

“The 2018 Health Quarantine Law stipulated that the basic needs of the people [...] affected by the quarantine policy are the responsibility of the central government in cooperation with the regional governments and other stakeholders,” it said.

The NGOs said they feared the government was deliberately refusing to formally impose a lockdown to evade responsibility. 

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has said that Indonesian people's cultural characteristics and discipline are the two main reasons why the government had ruled out a lockdown, adding that the decision was also made after evaluating policies enacted by other countries during the pandemic.

“I have gathered data about countries that have imposed lockdowns and, after analyzing them, I don’t think we should go that way,” Jokowi said during a meeting at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday.

The President, however, has taken some measures to protect those affected by the outbreak. On Wednesday, Jokowi announced the government would increase the allowance for the Staple Food Card holders from Rp 150,000 (about US$9) to Rp 200,000.  

The government also plans to speed up the preemployment card program and has allocated Rp 10 trillion to ensure that participants of the program would get Rp 1 million per month, the President said on his official Instagram account. (glh)