A cat stands in an empty plaza of the National Monument in Central Jakarta on Saturday as the city decides to close major public space to contain Covid-19 pandemic. (Antara Photo/Muhammad Adimaja) .

Regions Push for Social Distancing as Central Gov't Prioritizes Avoiding Panic Amid Pandemic


MARCH 14, 2020

Jakarta. The Jakarta provincial government has decided on Saturday to close all schools in the city for two weeks and postpone the student's final exams in its latest efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic in the capital, Governor Anies Baswedan said on Saturday.

The step follows other regions like Central Java that has banned large-scale public gathering, amid the central government's hesitance to push for social distancing measure in a hope to maintain some sense normalcy amid the ravaging pandemic. 

"Social distancing measures must be implemented. That means reducing mobility among the population as low as possible. The goal is to reduce the spread of individuals who do not necessarily feel symptoms," Anies said in a press conference today.

Anies said the students would take the long-distance lesson for the next two weeks. The provincial government will review the policy at the end of this month, he said. 


The metropolitan city — the home of 11 million people — has seen 17 people infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease, since the beginning of these months. Anies said in a televised interview earlier that without any measure, he feared the number could balloon to 6,000 in the next two weeks.

Anies's decision to close the school followed its earlier decision to close major tourist attractions like the National Monument (Monas) and theme park Taman Impian Jaya Ancol (Ancol Dreamland) starting on Saturday. Anies has also decided to shelved the electric car race Formula E, which is supposed to be in June. 

Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo has also issued an instruction to postpone or limiting activities that gather a large number of people in public places, such as car-free days or study tours.

"The [World Health Organization] has established [Covid-19] as a pandemic. We need cooperation. The world also faces this disease with all the power it has, and we must contribute to the fight," Ganjar said.

Earlier, Indonesia University, one of the country's largest higher institutions, had decided to cease most of its classes and urges students to return home. Starting March 18, the university would implement distance learning, the university president Ari Kuncoro said in a circular on Friday.

Secrecy to Avoid Panic

Governor Anies also has been vocal in disclosing information regarding Covid-19 in his area. The city's website now contains markers in regions where all the patients reside, aiming to warn the residents there to be more vigilant. 

"The picture is becoming clearer now that almost all the urban sub-districts in Jakarta now have Covid-19 cases," Anies said. 

"So please limit interaction with the crowd, as few as possible." 

The local governments push for transparency and social distancing came in stark contrast with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo instruction to keep key information that enables the public to asses their own risk, out of the public eye. 

While the government spokesman for Covid-19 handling Achmad Yurianto addresses the press every day, he repeatedly refused to disclose the patient's trip history or locations that they frequent. That despite such information proved vital for Singaporeans, South Koreans and Taiwanese in their winning battle against the outbreak.   

President Jokowi admitted on Friday that it was Indonesia's deliberate decision to approach the pandemic with a higher degree of secrecy. 

"We have taken serious steps. But at the same time, we do not want to create a sense of panic, unrest in the community," Jokowi said when giving a press statement at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on Friday. 

"In handling [the pandemic], we are indeed silent. We remain calm, and try hard to face this challenge," Jokowi said.