The Central Government of Indonesia has ordered the temporary closure of all foreign flights scheduled to arrive between January 1-14 2021. The decision was made following the discovery of a new variant of Covid-19 which has spread to several countries.
Since the new variant of the virus first surfaced in England, the Indonesian government had initially prohibited visitors from the UK in entering Indonesian territory. As more countries in Europe and across the world have started detecting the new strain, Indonesia has resorted to additional safety measures. In a virtual press conference on Monday (28/12), Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Retno Marsudi stated “All international flights scheduled to Indonesia on January 1-14, 2021 will be put on hold.”
The decision was taken at a virtual coordination meeting for COVID-19 handling in Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, East Java, and Bali here on Monday (Dec 14) led by Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan. The minister ordered to apply stricter restrictions against COVID-19 from December 18, 2020, to January 8, 2021. “The number of confirmed cases and mortality rates has continued to increase after the holidays in 20 provinces despite a declining trend earlier,” he noted in a statement here on Tuesday. A significant rise in confirmed cases was recorded after the holidays and joint leave at the end of October that necessitated the government to tighten restrictions.
The minister particularly highlighted the rise in cases in Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, East Java, South Sulawesi, North Sumatra, Bali, and South Kalimantan. He urged Governor Anies Baswedan to call on 75 percent of the capital city’s employees to work from home. “I have also urged the governor to continue the policy of limiting operating hours to 19:00 and limit the number of people gathering at restaurants, malls, and entertainment venues,” Pandjaitan, concurrently Deputy Chair of the Committee for COVID-19 Handling and National Economic Recovery (KPC PEN), affirmed. Religious, anniversary, or celebratory events that can attract crowds must be restricted or prohibited, he emphasized.
He reminded all governors participating in the meeting virtually to strictly implement the health protocols of wearing a face mask, maintaining a distance, and hand washing with soap. He particularly urged Bali and other tourist resort islands to tighten health protocols in rest areas, hotels, and tourist attractions. “We urge that tourists boarding a plane to Bali must take the PCR H-2 test before their flight to Bali and required to undergo the H-2 rapid antigen test before land travel to Bali,” he stated.
The Bali provincial government today announced that celebrations, fireworks, as well as getting drunk for the upcoming Christmas and New Year holiday will be prohibited in Bali, as officials expect a domestic tourism boost in the coming weeks. In a new circular issued to anticipate the upcoming year-end holiday, officials say that any activity throughout Christmas and the New Year must adhere to health protocols, comprising compulsory mask use, social distancing and limits on public and crowded places, among others.
The government has decided to ban crowd-pulling events and New Year’s Eve celebrations from Dec. 18 to Jan. 8 in a bid to prevent a spike in COVID-19 transmissions during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season.
Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investments Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said the decision was based on the continued and significant rise in new COVID-19 cases, particularly following a five-day weekend at the end of October. “The number of daily new cases and the death toll have continued to increase since the late October [extended break]. Prior to this, we had seen a relatively downward trend,” Luhut said on Monday in a meeting with the governors of Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, East Java and Bali.
The senior minister highlighted the fact that the spike in cases was mainly occurring in eight provinces: Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, East Java, South Sulawesi, North Sumatra, Bali and East Kalimantan. Luhut specifically asked Jakarta, the administrative region hardest-hit by the pandemic, to implement an even stricter work-from-home policy that requires 75 percent of workers in the capital to work remotely.
He has also asked Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan to continue limiting the operational hours of shopping malls, restaurants and entertainment venues to only 7 p.m. “Mall owners should provide rent relief to vendors, such as implementing a pro-rate system or a profit-sharing scheme so that the [stricter] policy won’t put an additional economic burden on tenants,” the minister said.
Wedding receptions and other crowd-pulling religious events were also asked to be banned and moved online. Authorities have their work cut out for them following a continued surge in coronavirus transmission since the long weekend in late October, with hundreds of new family clusters emerging in Jakarta alone. The 2020 regional elections are also feared to result in a spike in cases, although officials have played this down. Read also: Scientist warns of up to 10% daily spike in COVID-19 cases following 2020 Pilkada As of Monday, the nationwide tally of infections has reached 623,309 cases and 18,956 deaths.
Critics believe the true scale of the health crisis to be much bigger, with nationwide testing only covering some 4.3 million people. Meanwhile, directives for the nation’s rural areas were also raised during Monday’s meeting. “In rural areas, local governments have to strengthen the implementation of social restrictions on a micro- and community-level scale,” Luhut said.
Especially for Bali, he called for the stricter implementation of health protocols at rest areas, hotels and tourist attractions. “Tourists traveling to Bali by air are required to present negative PCR [polymerase chain reaction] test results, while those traveling by land have to bring negative antigen rapid test results,” he said. Read also: Govt hopes to reopen Bali to international tourism, but plan hinges on COVID-19 containment Previously, Anies and West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil announced that both their provinces would ban large New Year’s Eve celebration gatherings in public spaces indoors and outdoors. Meanwhile, Bali Tourism Agency head Putu Astawa said the provincial administration would allow hotels, restaurants and tourist destinations to host New Year’s Eve celebrations in a bid to revive the island’s tourism. Celebrations must still observe strict COVID-19 health protocols. To discourage the public from traveling, the government recently decided to reduce the number of collective leave days for the Christmas and New Year celebrations, including a substitute leave day to make up for the shortened Idul Fitri holiday. Under the new arrangement, the country will enjoy a total of eight days off instead of eleven, namely from Dec. 24 to 27 for Christmas, Dec. 31 to substitute for the canceled Idul Fitri leave day, then from Jan. 1 to 3, 2021, for New Year.
Some notable parts of the circular says that everyone, be it individuals, businesses, or organizers, are “strictly prohibited” from the following:
- Organizing New Year celebrations and the likes –– both indoors and outdoors
- Lighting fireworks, firecrackers, and the likes; and
- getting drunk on liquor and alcoholic drinks.
Those who are caught violating these new rules will be subject to a number of sanctions previously laid out on an earlier circular, such as a fine of IDR100,000 (US$7) for individuals without masks and a fine of IDR1 million (US$71) for businesses failing to provide health protocol facilities. Furthermore, it is strictly prohibited for New Year’s Eve parties and the like indoors and or outdoors, fireworks, and alcoholic drinks.
The governor stated that those who violate the provisions will be subject to administrative sanctions in accordance with Bali Governor Regulation Number 46 of 2020 and other statutory regulations. “To regents/mayor, sub-district heads, village heads, traditional Bendesa (cultural head) throughout Bali, as well as related parties to coordinate, communicate and socialize this Circular to be implemented in an orderly, disciplined and full of responsibility. To the Commander of Military Area Command (Kodam) IX / Udayana Bali and the Regional Police Chief are requested to carry out disciplinary enforcement operations to ensure the implementation of this Circular,” Governor Koster said.