JAKARTA - Trains, buses, planes and ships in Indonesia will resume operations from Thursday (May 7), weeks earlier than planned, even as the country maintains its ban on the annual exodus ahead of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
Officials said the move is necessary as essential workers as well as people with valid reasons to be out, such as those needing to see a doctor or to visit dying relatives, have been hampered by the transport limitations.
In a virtual meeting with the House of Representatives on Wednesday (May 6), Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said the decision is not meant to be a relaxation of the ban on the exodus.
"All modes of transport - air, sea, trains and buses - are permitted to operate again with one condition - compliance with the health protocol," he said.
The government had temporarily prohibited domestic land, air and sea travel, as well as international air travel, with only a few exceptions, since late April until up to June, in line with the ban on the annual exodus, locally known as mudik, in the world's biggest Muslim-majority country. Indonesia celebrates Hari Raya Aidilfitri on May 24 and May 25.
In a separate press briefing, Indonesia's Covid-19 task force chief Doni Monardo said: "There's no change in the regulation about mudik. It means mudik is still prohibited."
He said the resumption of transport services is necessary as the recent restrictions had hampered the mobility of medical workers and daily wage workers, the delivery of specimens and medical supplies, the transportation of staple food, and the repatriation of cruise crew and Indonesian migrant workers from overseas.
Jakarta is still under a partial lockdown, including a ban on gatherings of more than five people and mandatory work-from-home, recently extended to May 22.
Lieutenant-General Doni added that civil servants, army personnel, police officers, employees of state-owned enterprises, business people and staff of non-governmental organisations related to Covid-19 management, as well as people whose relatives get sick or die, will be permitted to travel under some conditions. Travellers are required to have a declaration letter from supervisors and a health declaration from health facilities.
Under the new arrangement, repatriation of migrant workers, students and Indonesian citizens abroad will also be enabled.
Mr Budi also said that the decision had been taken to drive the economy.
Indonesia, South-east Asia's largest economy, expanded by 2.97 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared with last year, the slowest in 19 years, Statistics Indonesia said on Tuesday.
In a Cabinet meeting conducted remotely on Wednesday, President Joko Widodo also took note of the tepid growth, as well as the contraction of Indonesia's purchasing managers index (PMI), a measurement of trade and manufacturing activities, which was deeper than its regional peers. He also ordered his economic team to observe thoroughly the hardest-hit sectors and prepare for appropriate stimuli.
At the same time, he also reminded his aides that their main focus is to push down the number of Covid-19 cases "as quickly as possible".
"We must achieve our target to turn the curve down in May, to attain moderate level in June and low level in July by all means," he said.
Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation with nearly 270 million people, recorded 367 fresh coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the overall infections to 12,438. It also saw another 23 deaths from the Covid-19, bringing the total deaths to 895, the highest in South-east Asia.