JAKARTA: Indonesia’s capital Jakarta shut cinemas and other public entertainment on Monday (Mar 23) at the start of a two-week emergency period to try to slow the accelerating spread of the coronavirus in Southeast Asia’s biggest city.
The new measures, which include urging people to work from home, still fall short of the tougher lockdowns imposed by neighbours amid concerns among some experts that the archipelago of 260 million people is not doing enough to contain the virus.
National police spokesperson Muhammad Iqbal said 465,000 police across Indonesia would disperse any public gatherings “for the sake of public safety” though a photograph posted on social media of a packed commuter train in Jakarta quickly went viral.
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President Joko Widodo on Monday offered his condolences after a medical association said six doctors and nurses had died after contracting the virus.
“I would like to thank them for their hard work, for their dedication in dealing with COVID-19,” said Widodo, speaking at the opening of an emergency hospital on the site of the “Athlete’s Village” built for the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.
Indonesia has confirmed 514 cases of the virus and 48 deaths, mainly concentrated in Jakarta, whose governor on Friday admitted medical staff were already getting over-stretched.
Widodo said doctors and other medical staff would receive bonuses ranging from 5 million rupiah to 15 million rupiah (US$300-US$900) per month in regions that have declared an emergency. Aside from Jakarta, the East Java region has also declared an emergency.
The president has so far resisted calls for tougher lockdowns due to concerns about the impact on businesses and the poor, many of whom are vendors plying their trade on the streets.
The normally traffic-clogged streets of the city of 10 million were far quieter than usual on Monday and student volunteers at a crossing on a major road held up signs urging people to avoid crowds and stay home.
But Rocky Margiano Simanjuntak, 23, posted a photograph on social media from inside a packed early morning train on his way to work in the city at a bank.
“Government policies seem to be only half measures, just an appeal,” Simanjuntak told Reuters via a message on his Instagram account, adding that public transport should not be limited unless authorities enforced rules to make people stay at home.
The commuter train company in a statement promised to return to normal operations to alleviate such crushes, but urged passengers to stay home.