JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced on Monday (Mar 30) that the government is formulating a regulation that would pave the way for cities and provinces across the country to impose a virtual lockdown, so as to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The regulation would serve as a guideline for regional governments to implement what the president described as “large scale social distancing” and “areal quarantine”, which includes the closing down of non-essential services and a strict movement control order.  

Mr Widodo said such measures are needed “to make social distancing policies be implemented in a firmer and more disciplined way”.

The regulation would outline when such measures are deemed necessary and can be implemented by cities and provinces, the president said, as well as the lockdown boundaries.

“I want to make sure that pharmacies and stores providing basic necessities remain open and cater to people’s needs while maintaining safe distance protocol,” he said.  

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

“(Regional) governments must provide social welfare protection and economic stimulus for small and medium businesses as well as informal workers (impacted by the lockdown),” Mr Widodo added. “We will announce this (regulation) soon.”

A man wearing face mask is sprayed inside a disinfection chamber, outside a shopping mall after Indonesia’s capital begins a two-week emergency period to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Jakarta, Indonesia, Mar 24, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan)

The president said cities and provinces would be able to close their borders under the proposed regulation. However, exceptions would be made for logistics movement, medical workers, police and military personnel as well as government officials.

“Our focus right now is to stop the spread of COVID-19 by reducing and limiting the movement of people from one area to the next. For the sake of people’s health, I ask that there be firmer steps to stop people’s movements to other areas,” he said.

The president noted that there is an expected exodus from major cities during the upcoming Eid holidays marking the end of the fasting month, when millions of Indonesians typically travel back to their home towns.

READ: Malaysia to implement enhanced measures for second phase of movement control order

Even before the fasting month kicks off next month, around 14,000 people have left the Greater Jakarta Area over the last eight days, the president said. These are mainly informal workers who have lost their income due to economic slowdown and calls for people to work and study from home.  

“We need firmer measures to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Mr Widodo stated.

An Indonesian woman walks past a COVID-19 mural in Indonesia

An Indonesian woman walks past a mural urging Indonesians to fight against the COVID-19 outbreak in Surabaya, Indonesia, Mar 26, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Juni Kriswanto)

As of Monday, more than 1,400 people have been tested positive across Indonesia, while more than 120 people have died.

Coordinating Minister for Security Affairs Muhammad Mahfud said in a statement that the government has been discussing the proposed regulation for days before the president’s announcement.

“We will try to expedite (the enactment of the regulation). We have been communicating with regional governments about this,” Mr Mahfud said.  

JAKARTA PREPARING SCENARIOS

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said he is urging the central government to enact the regulation, as his office needs to impose a lockdown.

The governor said that he has been in talks with various ministries and agencies as well as the military and police about a possible lockdown. He is drawing up several scenarios to impose the lockdown.

“They are all being discussed. Once it is finalised we will announce (the decision),” he was quoted as saying by Detik.com.

READ: Jakarta extends state of emergency after surge in coronavirus cases

Jakarta Police spokesman Yusri Yunus said police have been discussing ways to close off Jakarta’s porous borders with its suburbs.

“We are making preparations, collecting data, making simulations so if the government decides to lockdown (Jakarta), we will be prepared,” Mr Yunus told CNA.

An aerial view of vechiles passing by Semanggi road, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbre

An aerial view of vechiles passing by Semanggi road, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 27, 2020 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Galih Pradipta/via REUTERS

The city of Bogor, which borders Jakarta to the north, said it is also making preparations for a possible lockdown.

“We are ready for (a lockdown). Be it one month or two months, we are ready,” the city’s Deputy Mayor Dedie Rachim told Kompas.com.

But the city would wait until Jakarta closes its borders before enacting the measures, considering many Bogor residents work in the capital. 

Mr Rachim said that his office has also discussed ways to cordon off Bogor and shut down non-essential services.  

The cities of Depok, Bekasi and Tangerang, also Jakarta suburbs, are also taking similar steps, local media reported.

Despite the absence of a central government regulation which warrants a lockdown, the town of Tegal in Central Java province enacted its own measures and closed its borders from Monday until Jul 30.

The small town has erected concrete barriers at 49 entry points into the city, shut down public places and barred people from entering or leaving.

 

“I ask the people of Tegal and its surrounding areas for their understanding. I would rather be hated than have people dying,” the town’s mayor Dedy Yon Supriyono said, according to Detik.com.

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