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Jakarta Post

Regions to limit Independence Day events to prevent further COVID-19 spread

  • Wahyoe Boediwardhana and Ganug Nugroho Adi

    The Jakarta Post

Surabaya and Surakarta   /   Fri, August 14, 2020   /   06:56 pm
Regions to limit Independence Day events to prevent further COVID-19 spread A flag-hoisting team takes part in a ceremony to commemorate Indonesia's 75th anniversary in the Balla Lompoa area of Bajeng district, Gowa regency in South Sulawesi on Friday. The flag-hoisting ceremony, known as 'Gaukang Tubajeng', is an Independence Day celebration held by local residents based on the historical records claiming that in the past the Bajeng kingdom was the only kingdom that hoisted Indonesia's red and white flag prior to the Independence Declaration on Aug. 17. (Antara/Abriawan Abhe)

A number of regional administrations across the country have decided to limit the celebrations of Indonesia’s upcoming 75th anniversary and called on their respective residents to refrain from holding events that could attract crowds amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, which is showing no signs of slowing down.

The Surabaya administration in East Java has altogether prohibited celebrations that usually involve a large number of people, such as tirakatan (a tradition held on the eve of Independence Day to express gratitude to God before holding a flag-hoisting ceremony the next morning) as well as various competitions featuring traditional games including panjat pinang (pole climbing) and balap karung (sack race).

Indonesia’s Independence Day is celebrated every Aug. 17, when residents traditionally hold various events to commemorate the anniversary.

Deputy secretary of the Surabaya COVID-19 task force Irvan Widyanto said such events with a large gathering of people were fertile ground for the coronavirus to spread. 

East Java recently emerged as a new COVID-19 epicenter in the country, after capital Jakarta, with a total of 26,979 confirmed cases and 1,967 fatalities as of Friday.

"It's quite risky to hold tirakatan and competitions in the current conditions. So, we call on all residents to not hold any celebrations that involve many people on Independence Day," Irvan said earlier this week. 

Another city in East Java, Malang has also issued restrictions for Independence Day celebrations in the City Hall complex. Malang Mayor Sutiaji said a very limited number of people would perform a small prayer the night before the flag-hoisting ceremony, and it was going to be aired online through the city’s social media accounts. 

"Each activity [namely the tirakatan and flag-hoisting ceremony] would be attended by no more than 20 people," he said.

Read also: Less fun and games as Greater Jakarta limits Independence Day events

In Central Java, several regions in the province have opted for different approaches to the celebration. The Surakarta administration, for instance, has banned tirakatan yet still allowed traditional competitions to take place as long as health protocols are implemented. 

The Sukoharjo regency administration chose to take stricter action by prohibiting all gatherings without exception.

"There will be no tirakatan, no fun games this year. Let's avoid any gatherings in the meantime," Sukoharjo acting regional secretary Widodo said.

Similarly, local administrations in West Java, North Sumatra and South Sulawesi will also limit Independence Day celebrations to only the flag-hosting ceremony, which will involve small groups of people.

West Java COVID-19 task force secretary Daud Achmad urged residents not to hold big and festive celebrations "because they potentially attract crowds, which we must still avoid," he said.

A top official at the North Sumatra administration, M. Fitriyus, said the administration had decided to call off the annual Independence Day parade that had always enlivened the region's main roads every August 17. He also said the administration called on residents to put off any event that could gather a crowd.

"All of this is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the region," Fitriyus said.

Despite the calls, residents in Medan Selayang district in Medan, have worked together in the past week to prepare a series of celebrations, especially traditional competitions for children, to commemorate Independence Day.

“Generally there is not much difference between this year’s Independence Day celebrations than last year's. The only difference is that, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all competitions will be held under health protocols,” local resident Herdianto said on Friday.

Acting Makassar Mayor in South Sulawesi, Rudy Djamaluddin, said he had issued a circular calling on residents not to hold any gatherings or celebrations to prevent further transmission of the coronavirus.

“We are putting our focus on COVID-19 handling. Holding events for Independence Day will only gather crowds and we worry that it could trigger another spike of COVID-19 cases,” he said. (vny)

Arya Dipa from Bandung, Apriadi Gunawan from Medan and Andi Hajramurni from Makassar contributed to this story.