Indonesia prepares to lockdown 30 million people to curb coronavirus

Bloomberg | Updated on March 29, 2020 Published on March 29, 2020

Indonesia may soon quarantine almost 30 million people in its capital and surrounding areas to curb the spread of the coronavirus that’s killed more than 100 people in the worlds fourth-most populous nation.

Police and transport officials conducted drills on limiting the movement of people from the Greater Jakarta area at the weekend, the Jakarta Post reported. The governor of West Java, Ridwan Kamil, said a decision on the lockdown, including in the worst virus-hit areas of the province adjoining Jakarta, was expected on Monday.

The plan for a shutdown follows a spike in confirmed cases, with the number of infections in Jakarta reaching 675, more than half the country’s total. The pandemic has killed 114 people, the highest in Southeast Asia. The lockdown will allow authorities to prevent an exodus of people from the capital city area to their hometowns or villages as jobs are lost or when the Muslim-majority nation celebrates the end of the fasting month in May.

The return of people in large numbers from places like Jakarta, the epicentre of the pandemic in Indonesia, to their homes can complicate ongoing efforts to halt the spread of the virus, Kamil said in a statement Sunday.

There are fears a new wave of infections could soon hit the nation of almost 270 million people as authorities ramp up rapid testing of suspected cases using blood samples. Authorities had already declared a state of emergency until April 19 in Jakarta, asking companies to allow employees to work from home and businesses to operate only essential services to contain the virus spike.

President Joko Widodo had argued against copying the lockdown model adopted by countries such as China and Malaysia, saying the character and culture of the country should be taken into account in deciding shutdowns, and instead called for voluntary physical distancing. But the surge in cases has overwhelmed the country’s healthcare system, with authorities scrambling to procure enough personal protection equipment, hazmat suits and ventilators for medical workers.

The government temporarily banned exports of face masks and sanitizers, and allowed traders to import garlic and onions without permits to boost supplies ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. It has already ordered retailers to ration the sale of staples such as rice, cooking oils, sugar and instant noodles to prevent panic buying and hoarding.

Published on March 29, 2020

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