COVID-19: Jokowi urges Indonesians not to ‘balik kampung’ for Aidilfitri

President Jokowi wants Indonesians to forgo the “balik kampung” to celebrate Aidilfitri in May to curb the spread of COVID-19.

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) wants Indonesians to forgo the "balik kampung" to celebrate Aidilfitri in May to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the vast country.

The "balik kampung"is the annual exodus of people to their hometowns and villages to celebrate important festivals, especially Aidilfiri and Aidiladha.

The death toll due to COVID-19 in the most populous Islamic country has risen to 122, with eight deaths recorded in the last 24 hours.

"From noon yesterday to noon today, there were 129 new cases, bringing the tally to 1,414 cases," said Achmad Yurianto, the Indonesian government spokesman for COVID-19.So far, the Indonesian government has not imposed an inter-province travel restriction order.

The President's spokesman Fadjroel Rahman in a statement said Jokowi wants the people to give the "balik kamp[ung"a miss but if they must, take the necessary precautions like social distancing, maintaining good hygiene and health.

With the COVID-19 fatality rate this high in Indonesia (8.6 per cent), various quarters including political leaders, academics, social activists and netizens are now urging the central government to impose an immediate lockdown or movement control order to control movement of people between provinces.

They fear uncontrolled movement of people especially from Jakarta and towns in the vicinity with a combined population of over 30 million and recording the highest number of COVID 19 fatalities now, will pose a severe threat concerning the spread of the novel coronavirus to other provinces.

On the fatalities, Jakarta recorded 74 cases followed by West Java (20) and the rest in other provinces.

However, some observers and social activists see the government as taking countermeasures in stages so as not to cause panic and impact economic activities in the country of more than 270 million people.

"For example, on March 16, Indonesia closed schools, tourist spots, houses of worship and banned large scale gatherings, and week later expanded the move to include entertainment centres, limits on passengers, frequency and operation hours where public transport is concerned.

"The government also intensified its campaign on social distancing in the mass media and initially advised people to work from home (WFH) before enforcing WFH for non-critical sectors, which will be effective till April 19," said a social activist.