Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo officially issued a ban on mudik, the annual exodus of millions of people from the country's urban centers at the end of the Ramadan fasting month, on Tuesday in a desperate attempt to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
"I have made the decision to ban everyone from returning to their hometown," Jokowi said during a limited cabinet meeting at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta.
The decision to impose a nationwide ban on the Idul Fitri exodus was based on the government's own evaluations.
The Transportation Ministry indicated that 68 percent of Indonesian Muslims have decided to cancel their mudik plans this year, 24 percent are insisting they would carry on with their travel plans and 7 percent have already made the arduous trips back to their hometowns.
"This means there's still a substantial amount of people wanting to go back to their hometowns for Idul Fitri, around 24 percent of Indonesian Muslims," Jokowi said.
Last year, 33 million Indonesians left big cities during mudik for small towns and villages around the country.
Previously, the government only slapped the mudik ban on civil servants, soldiers and police officers and employees of state-owned enterprises.
Ordinary Indonesian Muslims were only warned not to go on the long exodus trips for fear they would spread the coronavirus in their hometowns and villages.
The president has asked all related ministries to take anticipatory steps to implement the mudik ban.
According to Jokowi, most people who have decided against mudik are already registered with the government's social safety net programs.
One of the deciding factors for the mudik ban was the government's assessment of the distribution of its social safety net programs in Greater Jakarta, which include a staple food card, a pre-employment card and an electricity subsidy.
Meanwhile, the National Police said they have made preparations for two different mudik scenarios this year.
One of them is a plan to close off toll roads in and out of Jakarta from private vehicles.
"At the moment we're preparing for two different scenarios [for mudik]," National Police spokesman Chief Comr. Asep Adi Saputra said in a statement.
The first scenario involves a nationwide ban on mudik. If this happens, the police will close off both toll and non-toll roads leading in and out of Jakarta.
"Accesses to and from Jakarta will be closed. Only vehicles carrying basic supplies such as food, medical equipment and fuel will be allowed into the city," Asep said.
The other scenario involves just a warning against mudik, in which case the police will reinforce its standard operating procedure to safeguard the yearly tradition with large-scale social restriction (PSBB) and physical distancing policy rules, especially at checkpoints along the mudik routes.
As of Monday, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Indonesia had reached 6,760, with a death toll of 590 and 747 recoveries.
In the absence of widespread testing, the government has also reported 16,343 people under the category of patients under observation (PDP), aka people who show symptoms of Covid-19 and have been hospitalized, and 181,770 people under the category of persons under surveillance (ODP), or people who have had contact with confirmed cases and now self-isolate at home.