Coronavirus: A different Hari Raya for Indonesian health workers amid restrictions

Dr Galoeh Adyasiwi (second from left) enjoying home-cooked meals with her parents, elder brother and her son. PHOTO: COURTESY OF GALOEH ADYASIWI

JAKARTA - Even though they are living under the same roof, Dr Galoeh Adyasiwi could not hug or kiss the hands of her parents, a tradition during Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

She also has to skip visiting her mother-in-law, where her husband's extended family usually gathers for the festive occasion.

"Many older family members are there and it will be risky if I go. I'm afraid of becoming a carrier of the virus," the resident pulmonologist at Persahabatan General Hospital Jakarta, a Covid-19 referral hospital, told The Straits Times.

For the first time, Dr Galoeh celebrated Hari Raya without her husband, who could not fly to the capital from Kolaka, South-east Sulawesi, where he works in a state-owned bank. The couple, who have a seven-year son, had a reunion virtually via a video call.

"At least, I was also off duty on Hari Raya eve, so I could spend time with my family and enjoy delicious ketupat (rice cake) and opor (chicken in coconut broth)," said the 34-year-old doctor.

Every year, more than 20 million Indonesians travel to their hometowns by air, sea and land at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan in a massive exodus known as mudik to celebrate Aidilfitri.

But this year, the government in the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation of around 270 million has banned mudik amid large-scale social distancing measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. The disease has killed nearly 1,400 and infected more than 22,000 in Indonesia.

The authorities have also urged Muslims to pray at home rather than at the mosques, which usually is the tradition.

In an address to the nation on Saturday, President Joko Widodo reminded Indonesians that the restrictions were absolutely necessary.

"I feel this is very hard, but the safety of our friends and relatives is certainly more important and must become our priority," he said.

Ms Susanti, a nurse at Premier Bintaro Hospital in South Tangerang, Banten, could not return to her hometown in Lampung on Sumatra island. Visiting her grandmother and relatives in the nearby town of Serang was also not an option.

"I have been the one who prepares everything for Hari Raya. But this year, I only sent my brothers money to buy their own clothes. I also ordered cookies from a friend for my family," she said.

"I am still thankful because I could celebrate the Hari Raya again this year. Although I'm not home, I could make video calls to my family and relatives. By staying here, I won't put them in danger," she added.

Similarly, Ms Linda Winarsih, a nurse at a Jakarta-based Covid-19 referral hospital, could not return home to Tegal, Central Java to meet her parents as well as her fiance with whom she was supposed to prepare for their wedding in August. She also refrained from visiting relatives in Jakarta, who could not return home.

But the 24-year old took solace in joining prayers in a nearby mosque in Bekasi, West Java. About 100 people, who passed temperature checks and wore masks, attended the prayers, despite official advice not to do so. Worshippers kept a safe distance and did not shake hands.

A woman checking the temperature of worshippers before joining a prayer at a mosque in Bekasi, West Java. PHOTO: COURTESY OF LINDA WINARSIH

Last week, under the hashtag #IndonesiaTerserah (Whatever Indonesia), social media users, including doctors and nurses, expressed frustration with the government's inconsistent policy responses to the Covid-19 pandemic as well as with the attitude of many Indonesians who flout the social distancing measures.

Noting that the non-compliance with the stay-home-rule could lead to continuing infections and "endless battle", Ms Susanti said: "Many people are getting bored staying home. In contrast, we health workers really want to be at home with our family."

"We hope this pandemic will end soon so we can meet our family again."

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.