Jakarta. The National Police on Monday issued a warning against non-essential public gatherings as they increase the chance of coronavirus transmission, saying that any violation could risk a jail term.
Wedding parties and hanging out at coffee shops can now become a crime as the country continues its struggle to cope with the Covid-19 epidemic, which has infected at least 579 people nationwide.
"We need to underline today that the National Police do not allow public gatherings to take place because they can cause the coronavirus to spread further," National Police spokesman M. Iqbal told reporters at his office in Jakarta.
"Our task is to protect and serve the people and this decision has been taken in light of the Covid-19 outbreak across the country," he said.
According to Iqbal, people should refrain from taking part in religious congregations, cultural events including music concerts, public seminars, group sports, demonstrations and other non-essential gatherings.
"Even if we find an overloaded public transportation, we will intervene by transferring passengers to other vehicles," he said.
Event organizers defying the order to avoid public gatherings can be charged under several articles of the Criminal Code, including the one on resisting law enforcement officials, he said.
Resisting an officer is punishable by up to 16 months in prison according to the law. When it involves violence against the officer, the perpetrator may face a maximum sentence of 15 years' imprisonment, Iqbal said.
But according to him, police would first employ a personal approach to disband public gatherings or prevent them from happening.
Legal measures will be taken only when the calls fall on deaf ears, he said.
Speaking separately, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said the city had asked for help from the police and the military to disband public gatherings in the capital, home to the majority of the country's positive Covid-19 cases.
"Public gatherings will be disbanded and those who resist our call will be questioned and potentially slapped with sanctions. The stake is too high, we must stop any kind of public gatherings," Anies told reporters shortly after meeting Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Nana Sujana and Jakarta Military Command Chief Maj. Gen. Eko Margiyono at City Hall on Monday.
Jakarta is bearing the brunt of the Covid-19 outbreak in Indonesia with 353 positive cases and 29 deaths, according to central government data relased on Monday.