President Joko Widodo yesterday said Indonesia needs stronger measures to limit mobility as the government steps up efforts to curb the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking before a Cabinet meeting, he said thousands of workers in Jakarta and its surrounding areas have returned to their home towns after losing most or all of their income amid the pandemic.
There have been concerns over a wider spread of infections as people from Jakarta, the epicentre of the country’s outbreak, return home, with reports saying Indonesia intends to ban the annual mudik, the hometown journey for Hari Raya Idul Fitri, which this year falls in late May.
Mr Joko’s remarks on limiting mobility come as Indonesia is preparing to put Jakarta under an “area quarantine”, a term observers see as equivalent to a lockdown, to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The Straits Times understands that Mr Joko, commonly known as Jokowi, is also considering a presidential emergency decree that would prevent any current laws from hampering the government’s efforts to tackle the outbreak, as well as institute measures to mitigate the resulting economic crisis.
Mr Joko said that over the past eight days alone, 876 buses had transported about 14,000 people in Greater Jakarta back to their home towns, mostly in West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta and East Java provinces. Others had taken trains and ships home.
These are mostly daily-rated workers, such as push-cart food sellers, in what is termed the informal sector of the economy.
“The early hometown journeys were not due to a cultural reason, but because they were forced to. Many workers in the informal sector experienced a drastic fall in their income, or have even lost all their income,” Mr Joko said.
There are fears that among the thousands of people who have left since a state of emergency was declared in Jakarta on March 23, some may be asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus who would then spread it to their family and fellow villagers when they reach home.
Concerns about such a way of spreading have been cited in reports that Indonesia is planning to ban the annual exodus for Hari Raya Idul Fitri. Last year’s exodus involved some 19.5 million Indonesians, mostly from Greater Jakarta, to other parts of the country.
Jakarta is the epicentre of the country’s coronavirus crisis, accounting for nearly half of the 1,414 confirmed cases in total. There are 122 deaths from Covid-19 in Indonesia, the highest in South-east Asia.
Yesterday’s Cabinet meeting was held to discuss the issue of the annual mudik as well as how to mitigate the outbreak’s impact on the economy.
Indonesia’s leaders have issued several presidential emergency decrees, or perppu, over the years. When a perppu is issued, it becomes effective immediately and is treated as legally binding, circumventing a long legislation process through Parliament.
In 2016, Mr Joko issued a perppu to introduce tougher penalties for child sex offenders. The punishments include chemical castration and the death penalty. The perppu also allowed courts to increase penalties for sex crimes after the media highlighted a growing number of attacks against children.
Former president Megawati Soekarnoputri issued a perppu to accelerate the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the 2002 Bali bombing that killed more than 200, mostly foreign tourists.