Coronavirus (COVID-19): Indonesia banned an annual ritual of citizens traveling in large numbers to their hometowns and villages ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.
President Joko Widodo, who announced the ban at a cabinet meeting in Jakarta on Tuesday, said the prohibition was based on an assessment that about 24% of people who usually undertake the holiday travel were planning trips irrespective of the virus outbreak.
The government has begun distribution of food kits and rolled out other social assistance programs this week to help the jobless and poor in cities, he said.
Infections in Indonesia have quadrupled this month alone with officials saying the pandemic may peak only toward end of May in a country of 270 million people. The virus has infected nearly 7,000 people and claimed almost 600 lives, the third-highest fatalities in Asia after China and India, even with the enforcement of some social distancing rules for more than a month.
The lack of progress in containing the virus in Indonesia is in contrast to phased easing of lockdown measures being contemplated by other major countries to minimize the economic shock from the pandemic. Jokowi, as Widodo is commonly known, has rejected calls for a complete lockdown, citing the impact on jobs and businesses. But the president on Monday called for a review of the lenient social distancing rules and ordered an urgent expansion of testing and aggressive containment measures.
Healthcare experts had called for a ban on the exodus, known as mudik, as it could spread the virus to more areas from the Greater Jakarta region, the nation’s epicenter of the outbreak. Roughly one out of every eight Indonesians head home ahead of Eid, the Muslim festival marking the end of Ramadan. An estimated 19.5 million people traveled to their hometowns from big cities like Jakarta during last year’s Eid, official data show.