Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak A.)

Gov't Sits on Mudik Rules While Thousands Flee Covid-19 Red Zones

BY :DIANA MARISKA

MARCH 31, 2020

Jakarta. The government is still preparing a regulation on the annual Idul Fitri exodus, or mudik, during the Covid-19 outbreak, the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, said. 

"We're going to have one last meeting before reporting the result to President Joko Widodo," Luhut said on Tuesday.

Experts have pointed out that the exodus, which last year involved 33 million people moving from large cities to their small hometowns across the archipelago, is a huge risk that could spread the pandemic further and push the death toll from Covid-19 to a tsunami level.

The pandemic has now infected 1,528 people in Indonesia, killing 136 with only 81 recoveries, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

Previously, a communication officer from the Transportation Ministry confirmed the government would impose a mudik ban while also admitting the plan was yet to be approved by the cabinet.

Before the decision to approve the ban comes, Luhut said the government wants to make sure the flow of logistics around the country won't be disturbed by the action. 

"We will review the plan again because we don't want to close access to logistics, or ground ambulances. The Transportation Ministry is having the discussion at the moment," Luhut said.

Thousands of Indonesians have decided to return to their hometown earlier than usual in anticipation of the ban. 

Luhut dismissed the impression the government is moving too slowly to issue the mudik regulation.

He reasoned that the current situation concerning the coronavirus pandemic keeps changing rapidly, and Indonesia is not the only country that struggles to keep up.

"To call [the government] slow, that's a matter of perspective, really. The situation is very dynamic, we didn't expect it to be changing so quickly. I'd say even the United States doesn't seem to be expecting it, either. They were fine before, but since two weeks ago they've been overwhelmed," Luhut said.

In the meantime, the minister asked Indonesians to shelve their mudik plan. 

He also requested people to adhere closely to the government's physical distancing advice to try to contain the spread of the pandemic.

"It's all up to us now. If we don't possess the awareness [to follow physical distancing], we will push the death toll even higher. Transmission happens very easily without rigorous physical distancing," Luhut said.

Meanwhile, thousands of daily wage workers have already left the capital Jakarta and its satellite cities – Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi – after the government-imposed physical distancing order closed down schools and offices and took away their income.  

Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo said more than 100,000 people have returned to Central Java, most of them from Greater Jakarta, the current epicenter of the pandemic in Indonesia.

"We must take the logical option. Yesterday I talked with the task force. I told them the red zone areas must be isolated," Ganjar said, referring to the government's Covid-19 Task Force led by Lt. Gen. Doni Monardo. 

"But we must understand the risks and know how to manage them," Ganjar said on Monday. 

The central government has until now decided against a lockdown.

Under the 2018 Law on Health Quarantine, when the government decides to impose a "regional quarantine" or lockdown, it must provide food for all residents, their pets and livestocks.  

Instead, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Monday imposed a "large-scale" social distancing, one level below regional quarantine.  

 

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