Indonesians pack shops, malls ahead of Hari Raya, shrugging off coronavirus fears

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In Indonesia, the government is facing an uphill task to make sure people comply with large-scale social distancing measures with many saying that it is God’s wish whether they get contract the coronavirus.

JAKARTA - Indonesians packed out shops and malls across the country with just days to go before Hari Raya Aidilfitri, braving the crowds and the coronavirus threat to buy festive essentials.

This is despite the fact that Indonesia has the most fatalities from Covid-19 in South-east Asia, with the tally reaching 1,278 on Thursday (May 21). The number of people confirmed to have been infected by the coronavirus, which causes Covid-19, was 20,162.

Popular markets such as Tanah Abang, in central Jakarta, were teeming with shoppers keen on getting new clothes for the children for the festive occasion known here as Lebaran.

"What would our kids say if we didn't buy them Lebaran clothes. It's okay if adults don't get new clothes. I am here for the kids," Ms Wiwiek, a mother of five boys, told The Straits Times at the Tanah Abang market.

Another shopper, a 65-year-old woman replied: "I leave it to God," when asked if she was worried about contracting the coronavirus. She was looking for clothes for her two grandsons.

The crowds were apparent not only in Jakarta, as video clips have been circulating on social media of similar scenes across the vast archipelago of over 270 million people.

In Pekalongan, Central Java, a netizen posted a one-minute clip showing rows of parked motorcycles that took up at least half of the road in front of the Matahari shopping mall over the weekend. Shoppers were seen queuing up at the mall's main entrance.

The netizen, a local resident, noted that the scene was no different than in previous years just before Lebaran.

Sarcastically, she said in the clip: "Let's celebrate now. Think about coronavirus later."

Indonesians have headed back to the markets and shopping malls to buy new clothes for Hari Raya Aidilfitri. ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA

Meanwhile on Monday, the local authorities were forced to close the Sentra Grosir Cikarang shopping mall in Bekasi, in West Java, after thousands of shoppers descended on the area.

Indonesia has imposed restrictions to contain the coronavirus, for example by banning mudik, the annual exodus to hometowns to celebrate Lebaran, and ordering all non-essential shops in Jakarta, the worst-hit city, to close. But shoppers are not the only ones flouting these rules.

Many Indonesians have been forced to ignore social distancing measures just to put food on the table.

"How can we stop working? Our family is not getting Sembako (the government's essential aid package)," Ms Fatimah, a 32-year-old roadside watch-seller told The Straits Times.

"My husband is ill. He just had a heart attack (in January). If I don't work, what will our children eat?"

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