Funeral service workers wearing protective suits carry the coffin of a suspected Covid-19 patient in Medan, North Sumatra, on Monday. The province has reported four deaths from the contagious disease. (Antara Photo/Septianda Perdana)

Jokowi Orders 'Large-Scale' Social Distancing But Still No Lockdown

BY :HERU ANDRIYANTO, LENNY TRISTIA TAMBUN

MARCH 30, 2020

Jakarta. Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Monday ordered a "large-scale" social distancing and said he would consider declaring a civil emergency in the face of a rapidly escalating Covid-19 outbreak across the archipelago.

"We will have large-scale social distancing and physical distancing that will be implemented more firmly, with more discipline, so it can be more effective. We might also need to declare a civil emergency," the president said in a video conference from his official residence in Bogor, West Java.

However, the president stopped short of declaring a national lockdown that will affect a population of more than 270 million.

Instead, the president reminded regional government heads that they cannot enforce a local lockdown without the consent of Jakarta.

"I would like to remind people that imposing a regional quarantine or health quarantine is the authority of the central government, not the regional government," Jokowi said.

"The central government and regional governments must share the same vision and deliver policies of the same tone," he said.

The central government will set up guidelines for districts and cities on how to implement stricter social isolation, according to the president.

His remarks came after several districts shut their borders and barred people from entering, including Tegal in Central Java and Tasikmalaya in West Java.

The Jakarta suburb of Bogor also revealed a plan to impose a lockdown, while police in the capital city temporarily closed main roads in a lockdown drill.

The government reported 1,414 confirmed Covid-19 cases on Monday, an increase of 129 from yesterday, with 122 deaths overall.

Still No Lockdown

Doni Monardo, the head of the government's Covid-19 Task Force, dismissed calls for a nationwide lockdown, which he said wasn't the "best solution" for Indonesia.

"I've been asked many times about the lockdown and I always replied that we should no longer talk about it," Doni told Jakarta Globe's sister publication Beritasatu.

Doni said a nationwide lockdown would be unbearable to the state budget. He cited the 2018 Law on Health Quarantine which stipulates that the central government must shoulder costs of basic needs in the affected community during a lockdown.

"That means not only the affected people, but also their pets and cattle," Doni said.

The most important thing is that people strictly observe physical distancing, avoid non-essential travels, wash hands more often and stay home as much as possible, he said.

A lockdown only makes sense when it comes to a smaller community unit, such as a housing complex, he said.

Early Exodus

President Jokowi reiterated the call for people in big cities, especially Jakarta, to drop travel plans to their hometown before and during Idul Fitri, which will fall in late May.

Millions of people leave Jakarta and its satellite cities once every year to celebrate the Islamic holy day with families in their hometowns. Last year, the exodus involved 19.5 million people, according to a government estimate.

The call was made to slow down the spread of coronavirus from Greater Jakarta, the epicenter of Indonesia's Covid-19 outbreak.

"But our call is not enough and we need firm actions to break the cycle of Covid-19," Jokowi said.

He added at least 14,000 people have already left Greater Jakarta by buses to West Java, Central Java, East Java and Yogyakarta in recent days.

"Not to mention people who traveled by airplanes, ships and cars," Jokowi said.

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