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Jakarta Post

Visits to retailers down significantly since start of social distancing policy

  • Eisya A. Eloksari

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, April 14, 2020   /   02:40 pm
Visits to retailers down significantly since start of social distancing policy A number of shopping malls in Bandung, West Java, have been closed since late March as part of social restriction measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Indonesia. (Shutterstock/GOLFX)

Major outdoor activities in Indonesia have declined sharply since the issuance of the government’s social distancing policy in mid-March, which encourages people to work from home, among other measures, to curb the spread of COVID-19, according to the latest mobility report issued by Google.

Visits to retail and recreational spaces such as restaurants, shopping centers, libraries and movie theaters have dropped 43 percent in the first week of April from January-February, Google’s Community Mobility Reports on global movement trends during the pandemic show.

One of Indonesia’s biggest shopping mall chains, Lippo Group Mall, said that all 70 of its malls across the country had been temporarily closed since late March or early April. Prior to the closure, the number of visitors had declined 10 to 20 percent, Lippo Malls corporate public relations and reputation manager Nidia Ichsan told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

“There was a significant visitor decline in our mall in Depok at the beginning of March because the first two COVID-19 cases had just been found in the city,” she said over the phone.

Nidia added that visitation rates varied depending on the area. A Lippo mall in Palembang, South Sumatra, for example, was still crowded around mid-March before its temporary closure on April 1.

Meanwhile, shopping centers in the capital were seeing lesser visitors, especially since movie theaters had been closed since mid-March.

“As of now, we plan to close the malls until April 24, but we will comply with government’s regulation if further closure is needed,” she said, adding that ATMs, food and beverage tenants, as well as supermarkets and pharmacies, were still open for business.

Jakarta imposed two-week, large-scale social distancing (PSBB) on Friday, during which schools, workplaces places of worship across Jakarta are closed. The measure, which carries a harsh sanction, was issued as the social distancing appeal earlier imposed by the government was not effective in reducing people’s mobility.

 The Google report showed that supermarkets and pharmacies saw a 24 percent decline in visitors as they were essentials services during the PSBB. Concurrently, the trend for people staying in residential areas is up by 14 percent.

Rini Aisyah, 41, for example, has been in self-quarantine with her family in East Jakarta for 27 days. The last time she went out was to buy groceries on April 9, prior to the Jakarta PSBB imposed the following day.

She went on to say that she had to drive to the grocery store alone as her husband had to stay home with their 5-year-old son. The family’s nanny had been given time off at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We wanted to take our son to watch a children’s movie, Trolls 2, but for now, we have to be satisfied with online streaming and watching it on a laptop,” she said, adding that she also missed hanging out with her coworkers and joining family dinners at the mall.

“I used to take the TransJakarta to work, but since early March, I’ve been using app-based ojek [motorcycle taxi ] instead because I’m afraid public transportation would be crowded,” she said, adding that her place of work had allowed employees to work from home.

People’s mobility at transit stations such as bus and train stations saw the biggest change with a 58 percent decline. The Google data showed that most of the decline happened around March 15 when President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called for people to study, work and pray from home.

The trend for workplaces, however, showed the least change with only a 17 percent drop and the only key activities that showed a fluctuation, meaning that some people still worked from their offices amid the pandemic.

“I still took the commuter line last week and will have to take it again on Friday to go to work,” said 25-years-old Ferdian Pratama, a civil servant in Jakarta.

He said he had been going to the office once a week since March 17.

Ferdi lives in a kos-kosan (rooming house) in Depok, West Java. He still goes out to buy food and groceries at minimarkets almost daily, but it has been increasingly difficult to find a food vendor that was still open in his neighborhood, he said.

He went on to say that he was the only tenant left in the kos-kosan because the others had decided to go back to their respective hometowns. Along with being alone and working from home, the quarantine has driven him into boredom.

“I miss being on the field for work because I like to be on the move,” he told the Post. “Also, I want to see a concert or go to a festival after the pandemic is over.”