Indonesians have celebrated Christmas with online masses and low-key services on Thursday as the Covid-19 pandemic entered its worst turn across the archipelago with accelerating growth in the number of new cases, active cases, and deaths.
The Religion Affairs Ministry has allowed churches to hold Christmas services but limit the number of congregation members who could attend and require the curses to impose strict health protocols.
The number of people who can participate in the Christmas services inside the church does not exceed 50 percent of the church capacity. For those who cannot attend, the state television broadcaster TVRI live-streamed a Christmas eve mass on Thursday from Parish of Kelapa Gading in Jakarta. Other parishes or churches also broadcasted their services on their social media or Youtube channels.
As the Covid-19 cases in Indonesia jumped by close to 154,000 in this month alone, already higher than any other months since the pandemic began, the churches went far and beyond to ensure their congregate members' safety.
The Santo Yosef Catholic Church in Palembang, South Sumatra, sterilized all rooms with disinfectants. Every church in the country has to put physical distancing signs on the floor and chairs, at a minimum distance of one meter.
Besides tightening health protocol guidelines, church safety issues are still a national priority. Indonesian National Police deployed 8,179 joint personnel to securing Christmas Eve services from any possible threats in 1,635 churches in Jakarta and its surroundings.
Mudik, an annual ritual for peoples to go back to their hometown to see families and friends on Christmas, is also subject to strict health protocols. Travelers who travel by plane and train must take the rapid antigen or the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
Indonesia reported 7,199 new cases and 181 deaths due to Covid-19 overnight, bringing the total to 692,838, with death tolls reaching 20,589 on Thursday. The most populous country in Southeast Asia now has more than 108,000 active cases.
The government in Jakarta, the country's Covid-19 epicentrum, and its neighboring province Banten have warned its population about the healthcare system reaicing its maximum capacity for treating the Covid-19 patients.