The Jakarta Post
While once again dismissing the option of imposing a lockdown on the capital, the government said on Monday that it would instead impose stricter regulations on social distancing coupled with “civil emergency measures”, a move that critics warn could exacerbate the coronavirus crisis.
After a virtual Cabinet meeting on Monday, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo instructed his Cabinet to prepare regulations on mass social distancing based on Law No. 6/2018 on Health Quarantine that restricts movement in particular regions.
“I ask that large-scale social restrictions and physical distancing policies be enforced more strictly and more effectively, which is why I said they should be coupled with civil-emergency policies," Jokowi said in a teleconferenced meeting from Bogor Palace, West Java.
The President also instructed his aides to craft a clear regulation to act as guidance for regional administrations to implement the large-scale social distancing, although he added that the final decision on quarantine measures rested with the central government.
“The policy [to announce] health quarantine, including territorial quarantines, is within the authority of the central government, not regional administrations. I hope that all ministers ensure that the central and regional governments have the same vision and policy,” he said.
The Jokowi administration has been under pressure to impose a lockdown on the capital, which has become the region worst-hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. Indonesia recorded 1,414 cases with 122 deaths as of Monday. Jakarta accounted for 698 cases and 74 deaths.
Provincial and city administrations, as well as communities, have begun to take initiatives to close their borders to prevent the spread of the outbreak to their regions. But with Jokowi’s decision, these measures cannot be described as a “lockdown” or “quarantine”, because only the central government has the power impose such measures.
Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said he had formally proposed imposing a territorial quarantine on the capital, prohibiting all activities in the city except for those related to energy, food, health, communications and finance. However, he abided by the central government’s decision not to do so.
“For two weeks, Jakarta has closed schools, workplaces and places of worship and other public centers, but we have limited authority to enforce this. That is why we hoped there would be legal restrictions,” he said.
The President has resisted the idea of imposing a national lockdown, saying it would be unsuitable for Indonesian society and has instead called on the public to practice social distancing as a preventive measure to contain the outbreak.
A draft government regulation on health quarantine, a copy of which was obtained by The Jakarta Post, however, does not stipulate sanctions for those failing to abide by the social-restrictions order.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Doni Monardo said the government would base its regulations on the battle against COVID-19 on three laws: Law No. 24/2007 on Disaster Response, the Health Quarantine Law and Government Regulation in Lieu of Law No.23/1959 on civil emergency (Perppu 23/1959).
“The government will certainly not follow [policies that have] been ineffective in other countries. In handling disasters, [a policy] should not create a new problem, or a new disaster,” he said at a press conference, while referring to the possibility of imposing a lockdown.
Doni gave an assurance that while preparing regulations, the government would guarantee the supply of staple commodities in all areas in the country, including medical supplies such as face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant.
Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Yusri Yunus said the police had yet to restrict toll road access despite a drill that was exercised on Sunday.
“Jakarta has yet to be quarantined. That is a decision for the central government,” he said.
But Yusri said police personnel in the capital were ready if and when the government decided to do so.
Constitutional law expert from Jakarta-based Jentera School of Law Bivitri Susanti said the use of the civil emergency status was misguided in the context of handling the COVID-19 outbreak since the situation, as stipulated in Perppu No.23/1959, implied a heavy-handed security approach.
“The regulation was issued in 1959 when Indonesia was dealing with armed rebellions. Its approach is very much security-based,” Bivitri told the Post over the phone. “Whereas we are dealing with a virus, not an insurgency.”
There are four quarantine measures stipulated in the Health Quarantine Law, namely home quarantine, hospital quarantine, territorial quarantine and large-scale social distancing.
The 2018 law defines a territorial quarantine as restrictions on entry into a specific territory deemed to be a hotspot of disease transmission or contamination area, while large-scale social distancing measures relate to the restriction on activities within specified areas to prevent the transmission of disease or contamination.
Bivitri said combining the large-scale social distancing, which implies some form of restriction on social activities, with a territorial quarantine, which implies restrictions at points of entry into a specific area, was the best possible way for the country to contain the transmission of the viral disease under existing legal mechanisms.
The government could allow for territorial quarantines on a smaller scale, Bivitri said, given that imposing a nationwide territorial quarantine, according to the 2018 law, entailed that the central government would provide all the basic necessities for its citizens during the period.
“For me, the failure of the central government, up to this point, to provide instructions [to the regional administrations] has confused the regional administrations. Don’t blame the regional administrations [for enacting various policies] because there has not yet been any directive from [the central government],” said Bivitri. (trn)
--Margareth S. Aritonang contributed to this story.