The Jakarta Post
The government has called for Christmas celebrations this year to take place under proper health protocols to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi said the ministry was drafting a regulation governing this year's Christmas celebrations, covering rules and recommendations for Christmas services, celebrations and the expected holiday exodus.
“In places of worship, we urge people to avoid crowding, to keep their distance from each other and to undergo health checks, among other things,” Fachrul said at a press conference at the State Palace on Wednesday.
The ministry's Protestant Christian Community Guidance Directorate General and its Catholic Community Guidance Directorate General oversaw the drafting of the regulation, which is expected to be issued by the end of this week.
As a national holiday, Christmas Day is usually paired with a collective leave day on the day before: Dec. 24.
Earlier this year, the government decided to reschedule the planned Idul Fitri collective leave days, which were initially set for May 26 to May 29, to the end of the year, from Dec. 28 to 31, due to an alarming rise in COVID-19 transmission.
Under such an arrangement, Indonesians could enjoy a long year-end holiday – from Dec. 24 until the new year.
However, these collective leave days may change. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo recently instructed his aides to cut the 2020 year-end holiday short as the pandemic had shown no signs of letting up.
Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy said the President had instructed his ministry to organize a meeting to discuss the year-end holiday with several ministries and state institutions.
Indonesia broke another daily case record on Wednesday as the national COVID-19 task force reported 5,534 new cases, bringing the overall tally to 511,836 cases nationwide with 16,225 fatalities.
There were 65,804 active COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday.
Long holidays are thought to have contributed to the rise in cases across the archipelago as health protocols tend to be violated during leave days.
National COVID-19 task force spokesperson Wiku Adisasmito said the long weekend observed in late October had resulted in a 17 to 22 percent increase in positive cases from Nov. 8 to Nov. 22.
According to task force data, reports from 407 regencies and cities showed at least 600,000 health protocol violations daily at tourist locales during the national holiday from Oct. 28 to Nov. 1.
More than 1 million people at tourist spots were monitored for health protocol violations, the data shows.
Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) chief Daeng M. Faqih has suggested that the government cancel the planned year-end holiday, citing the spikes in virus transmission after the long weekends in August and October.