JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Tuesday (Mar 31) that he has signed the regulations needed for cities and provinces to enforce what the government described as “large-scale social restrictions” amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The president said he signed a government regulation on “Large-Scale Social Restrictions” and a presidential decree on “Public Health Emergency Status”.

Mr Widodo said in a press conference that the restrictions will be based on the 2018 Law on Health Quarantine, which allows cities and provinces to shut down non-essential services and limit religious and social activities.

READ: Restrictions on movements in some Southeast Asian countries to fight COVID-19 have been patchy, even scary, a commentary

“The government has declared COVID-19 as a disease which carries great risk of spreading and thus requires the enactment of a public health emergency status,” he said.

Workers set up a concrete barrier amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Tegal, central Java Province, Indonesia March 29, 2020 in this photo taken by Antara

The president said the regulations would give permission to the national police “to take proportionate law enforcement steps” so that the large-scale social restriction measures can effectively prevent the spread of the outbreak.

The government could impose martial law if the current policy is not enough, he stressed. 

“We are preparing (the option) of martial law under abnormal circumstances. We are prepared to take such measure, but not under the current circumstances of course,” Mr Widodo said.

A man washes hands at a hand-washing station to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

A man washes hands at a hand-washing station to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, March 30, 2020, in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara FotoHendra Nurdiyansyaha/ via REUTERS

The government would also take a number of steps to mitigate the economic impact of the social restriction policy, Mr Widodo said. 

Among the measures included providing financial aid to informal workers and the underprivileged, waiving electricity bills for some homes and setting aside 25 trillion rupiah (US$1.5 million) to keep food and daily necessities affordable. 

As of Tuesday, Indonesia reported a total of 1,528 cases and 136 deaths, with 81 recoveries. 


Separately, the country’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi announced that Indonesia will ban foreigners from entering and transiting in its territory, while mandating citizens and residents returning from overseas to self-isolate.

Details will be decided later, she said. 

“The president has decided that the current policy (adopted in Indonesia) needs to be strengthened and it has been decided that all arrivals and transits by foreign nationals in Indonesian territory will be temporarily stopped,” the minister said after a Cabinet meeting with Mr Widodo.

Airport officer sprays disinfectant at a Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, to prevent the sprea

FILE PHOTO – Airport officer sprays disinfectant at a Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Tangerang, near Jakarta, Indonesia March 25, 2020 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/MuhammadIqbal/ via REUTERS

“The president has made a clear instruction, stressing the importance … of protecting the Indonesian territory and people from the spread of COVID-19.”

Mdm Marsudi said foreign nationals with temporary or permanent residency permits and diplomats will still be allowed entry into the country.

Meanwhile, Indonesians returning from overseas will be subject to health checks upon their arrivals.

READ: Without major intervention, Indonesia could have 71,000 COVID-19 cases by end-April, a commentary

“Those showing symptoms will be quarantined. Those without will have to undergo a 14-day self-isolation,” she said.

The measure is taken as Indonesia braces for a possible wave of Indonesian workers returning home after several countries imposed various degrees of lockdown.

“There has been significant number of returning Indonesians from Malaysia as the result of the MCO,” the minister said, referring to Malaysia’s Movement Control Order.

The Foreign Ministry, Mdm Marsudi said, is also anticipating the return of more than 11,000 Indonesian workers employed by cruise ship companies, which have been affected by the pandemic.

READ: Indonesia COVID-19 plans ‘in tatters’ as infections surge

The ministry is also keeping an eye on the Indonesian members of Jamaat Tablighi, the religious group which has been linked to many infections in Malaysia.

The ministry estimated that close to 1,500 Indonesian members of the group are currently conducting religious studies abroad. About half are believed to be in India. 

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