The Jakarta Post
Entering the last week of Ramadan, shopping centers across the country are packed by shoppers getting ready to welcome the annual celebration of Idul Fitri, with many neglecting health protocols designed to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
A number of photos and videos have made the rounds on social media showing shoppers swarming clothing shops and lining up too closely at entrances, waiting for their body-temperature checks before entering shopping centers.
Besides implementing large-scale social restrictions (PSBB), some local administrations have issued restrictions on operating hours, with many shopping centers only allowed to open at noon, but not all places have obeyed these policies.
In East Java, for instance, crowds packed a number of shopping centers in several cities and regencies. In the capital Surabaya -- which currently imposes PSBB -- Royal Plaza, Pakuwon Trade Center (PTC), Tunjungan Plaza and other malls were all busy on Sunday.
East Java COVID-19 task force secretary Heru Tjahjono confirmed the information, saying that his team was required to pay “special attention” to the implementation of the mobility restrictions during this time of the year.
“We have received reports that shopping centers are crowded in several areas as Idul Fitri approaches, including in Malang,” Heru told tribunnews.com on Monday, adding that his team would monitor malls in certain areas, specifically in Greater Surabaya.
Last week, East Java Deputy Governor Emil Dardak designated Pakuwon Mall and Tunjungan Plaza as two of 52 COVID-19 clusters in the province. The Surabaya COVID-19 task force later disagreed, saying that no transmissions had occurred inside the malls.
In Jember regency, a large crowd that was seen at Roxy Mall in Kaliwates district on Sunday led to heated conversations on social media later in the evening.
Kaliwates Police chief Comr. Edy Sudarto confirmed that the crowding occurred on Sunday, despite the the police having previously invited the management of a number of shopping centers to discuss their anticipation of a buildup ahead of Idul Fitri, which is expected to fall on Saturday and Sunday.
“The buildup happened at Roxy because it’s very popular with middle- to lower-income people. Eventually, the officers were overwhelmed,” Edy told kompas.com on Monday, while regretting the public’s attitude of ignoring the police order.
Jember Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Aris Supriyono said that he had coordinated with at least 17 shopping center and clothing store managements in Jember to ask them to apply better measures such as dividing visitors into various areas of the malls for body-temperature checks.
Jember Police have also asked mall managements to limit visiting times and the number of visitors, and to ensure that all visitors wear face masks and apply proper physical-distancing rules.
In Gresik regency, two people tested positive for COVID-19 through a rapid test conducted by the regency’s task force in a Ramayana store on Sunday, after two days of huge crowds and visitors jostling around.
Gresik COVID-19 task force secretary Tursilowanto Hariogi said that the two people, one a Ramayana employee and the other a visitor, were immediately ordered to self-quarantine, under monitoring from the health agency.
In Tangerang, Banten, a video showing a buildup in the entrance hall of the Ciledug CBD Mall has also gone viral on the internet.
“It happened on Sunday,” Tangerang Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) official Gufron Falfeli told kompas.com on Tuesday, adding that the mall had been allowed to operate as it included stores that provided basic daily needs.
The agency’s head, Agus Hendra, said a further investigation had found that the mall management may have violated operational restrictions by allowing the operation of non-essential businesses, which later were forced to close.
Large crowds have also been seen in some markets across Jakarta, as well as in shopping centers in the cities of Tegal and Pekalongan, Central Java, and in Pekanbaru, Riau, in the past few days.
People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) Deputy Speaker Lestari Moerdijat voiced her concerns, saying that the government should act consistently in implementing social restrictions, especially during Idul Fitri.
“There have been alarming scenes before this Idul Fitri. The government has insisted there has not been any policy easing, but crowding has continued to occur. This situation confuses people,” Lestari said in a statement on Tuesday.
She stressed that the authorities should be able to immediately restore order when people crowded the roads and markets. In Tanah Abang Market, Central Jakarta, she pointed out, even though the market was officially closed, traders were still selling on roadsides.
“If there has been no policy easing, why are there no sanctions and arrangements according to the health protocols?” asked Lestari, adding that such confusion might eventually lead to skepticism among the community about the government’s policies. (syk)