Posters warning people not to enter a quarantine area in Hitu Lama village, Ambon, Central Maluku. (Photo courtesy of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency)

This Is How Local Quarantine Should Be Done

BY :ASNI OVIER, NUR YASMIN

APRIL 07, 2020

Jakarta. While the Jakarta provincial government faces continuing uncertainties on local quarantine ruling, other cities have taken matters into their own hand and imposed local lockdowns to suppress the spread of Covid-19 in their area.

Two villages in Ambon have now provided a good example of what a local lockdown or quarantine should look like. 

The neighboring villages, Hitu Lama and Hitu Messing, located near the provincial capital of Ambon in Central Maluku, have built quarantine facilities for returning residents from coronavirus-hit cities, including Jakarta. 

Residents of the villages have been returning from the capital – the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Indonesia – and this worries Salhana Pelu, the Hitu Lama village head.

"Our people are very affectionate, they love their families. I am concerned because people would return here after years and they wouldn't be able to stop kissing, hugging, sleeping and eating with their families if they're quarantined at home," Salhana told Jakarta Globe.

The makeshift quarantine facility in Hitu Lama is a converted high school building, only a kilometer away from the village.

"Schools are closed, so we thought to turn them into quarantine facilities. One school can hold up to 40 people," he said.

Because of the short distance from the village, the village head has banned local residents from visiting their family members in quarantine.

"Thank God people seem to accept the ban. I have not heard any complaints," Salhana said.

The quarantine facility started running on April 1, and since then had taken in 47 returning residents who were all put in self-isolation.

"They were all informed beforehand not to go to their home when they arrive in the village but go to the quarantine facility straight away," he said.

"They need to stay in the facility for 14 days. If they have self-quarantined for a few days, they need to complete the rest of the quarantine period here," Salhana said.

"We take care of all their needs in the facility. Except for beds, we thought it would be more hygienic if they bring their own," he said.

The residents of both villages are also not allowed to shake hands and must maintain a minimum distance of one meter between each other.

They are also required to pray at home, stay home after sunset, stay away from the city except for an emergency and cancel all public events. 

Salhana said the village receives funding from the Maluku provincial government but did not specify the amount. 

So far, the village has zero cases of coronavirus infection.

"Until today, we don't have any persons under observation [ODP] or suspect Covid-19 patients [PDP]. We're cooperating with the local health center, who regularly check on the people in quarantine," he said.

Salhana advised people not to return home for Idul Fitri in this situation. Nevertheless, he said the village is anticipating hundreds to return during Ramadan and mudik, the exodus season.

"We will quarantine them if they come, but I suggest not returning for the time being," Salhana said.

Salhana decided to take matters into his own hand once he saw the number of Covid-19 cases kept rising in Indonesia.

"I tried imposing the self-quarantine order as advised by the government, but it wasn't working. This is what we think should be done," he said.

"All villages in Indonesia should apply this method. Be a pioneer and break the chain of infection," Salhana said.

Doni Monardo, the head of the government's Covid-19 Task Force, said he appreciated the villages' initiative to isolate their area to help contain the spread of Covid-19. 

"I thank village chiefs in many regions who have taken the initiative to isolate people returning home [from epidemic red zone areas]," Doni said last week. 

"I hope all village chiefs across Indonesia could replicate this initiative," Doni said. 

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