By Nicky Aulia Widadio
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AA) – Indonesia’s transportation minister said Wednesday that as many as 18.9 million people or 7% of the total population would insist on heading for their hometowns for the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, defying a coronavirus-related ban.
Budi Karya Sumadi cited a recent survey which found that travelers intended to take part in the homecoming exodus, locally called mudik, before the ban is imposed from May 6-17.
“After the ban is imposed, mudik travelers will constitute 7% of the population. However, the number is still quite high, at around 18 million people,” he said during a discussion on Wednesday.
Sumadi said the authorities will continue to disseminate information on the policy. As a result, the number of mudik travelers is expected to decline further.
According to the Indonesian Railways Company (PT KAI), 15,000 passengers left the capital Jakarta today.
During the same period, around 130,000 vehicles left the greater Jakarta area, with the majority of travelers heading towards Central Java, East Java and West Java.
West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said travelers who go early for the homecoming would be asked to self-quarantine.
"If they insist on going for mudik, they must undergo a five-day self-quarantine. We have prepared 2,500 isolation rooms in the villages,” said Kamil in a virtual discussion.
Some 155,000 personnel, including from the National Police (Polri) and National Armed Forces (TNI), will be deployed to implement Operation Ketupat Jaya 2021 from May 6-17 as Muslims will celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan on May 13-14.
Operation Ketupat Jaya 2021 is being conducted to block access to and from the greater Jakarta area to maintain security and to monitor the implementation of health protocols.
– Potential spike in COVID-19 cases
Doni Monardo, head of the COVID-19 National Task Force, said if people insist on embarking on mudik, it could lead to a spike in new COVID-19 cases.
"If we do not ban the homecoming, it will trigger more outbreaks, while not all regions have adequate hospitals [to handle COVID-19 patients],” he said Wednesday.
He noted that long holidays have been proven to have the effect of increasing the number of positive cases nationwide, referring to last year’s Eid holiday.
Moreover, Indonesia has detected coronavirus variants linked to more transmissible variants first detected in England, India and South Africa.
The new variant of COVID-19 is B117 from England, then B.1.351 from South Africa and the double mutation variant from India B1617.
These variants, which are classified as Variants of Concern, are known to have higher transmission rates of around 36% to 75% compared to the type of virus previously circulating.
“That is why we should not lower our safety standards. We need to remain vigilant at all times,” Monardo added.
*Writing by Maria Elisa Hospita