The Jakarta Post
Families residing in Jakarta have started to pack their bags and return to their home towns, including to Wonogiri, Central Java, despite the government’s warning for people not to travel home for Idul Fitri this year so as to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The coronavirus has infected at least 790 people across the country as of Thursday at noon and killed 58 in total.
Hesti Winarni, a 43-year-old meatball seller in Jakarta, decided to return to Wonogiri since her business had experienced a decline of sales since the outbreak hit the capital city.
“The kids are off from school. Wonogiri is also safer than Jakarta," said Hesti, a resident of Baturetno district.
She was not the only one to return to her home town, as transportation authorities in Wonogiri have recorded about 14,000 people coming into the regency within last week. According to data gathered at the Giri Adipura bus terminal in the regency, as many as 876 buses from Greater Jakarta area carrying a total of 14,140 passengers had arrived in Wonogiri.
Such an increase in the number of passengers usually only occurs during the Idul Fitri mudik (exodus), said Agus Hasto Purwanto, the head of the bus terminal.
“Normally, fewer than 1,000 passengers arrive in Wonogiri every day. However, the number has started to jump in the past few weeks to 2,000 per day,” Agus said, adding the number was expected to keep rising until the end of the COVID-19 emergency, possibly in late May.
Wonogiri Regent Joko Sutopo defended people’s decisions to return to their home towns, as most who migrated from the regency work as small vendors and factory workers across Greater Jakarta. They had no option but to go home, he said, as they earned no money during the work-from-home period.
Joko said the administration could prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the region, amid the mass exodus that has been a tradition of the residents.
“We’re disseminating information [on COVID-19] to neighborhood units [RT] and youth groups in communities. We are not worried because everything is going well as planned,” the regent said.
He added that local officials and health facilitators had been actively spreading the information. Health officials would also disinfect train stations and bus terminals, as well as provide hand sanitizer to passengers.
As of Thursday morning, Wonogiri confirmed it had two COVID-19-positive cases. One of the patients has died of the disease, while the other – a Wonogiri-Bogor intercity bus driver – is being treated at Soediran Mangun Sumarso Hospital in the regency.
Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo had urged residents working in Jakarta not to return home and demanded residents in the province not to go to the capital city. "There should be a record of each traveler's health at Central Java’s border," he said.
The Transportation Ministry is currently considering a plan to ban this year’s Idul Fitri mudik, but has yet reached a final decision (trn)