Jakarta residents scramble to prevent spread of Covid-19 after Hari Raya

Banners sprayed in red or black paint can be seen in a number of neighbourhoods across the capital. ST PHOTO: LINDA YULISMAN
Banners demand that travellers returning from their home towns after the Hari Raya Aidilfitri holiday show their Covid-19 test results. ST PHOTO: LINDA YULISMAN

JAKARTA - Worried Jakartans are up in arms over residents returning from their home towns after the Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays, demanding that those returning be certified free of the Covid-19 virus.

Banners sprayed in red or black paint can be seen in a number of neighbourhoods across the capital, with some saying "we reject those returning from home towns without Covid-free letters".

The authorities are bracing themselves for a spike in Covid-19 cases as 2.6 million people return to major cities across Indonesia's most populated island Java, especially Jakarta.

Most of these people circumvented a ban on what is the traditional exodus, better known as mudik, ahead of Aidilfitri. The ban was in effect from May 6 to 17.

Mr Ongis Firman, 43, a resident of Kartini village in Sawah Besar sub-district, Central Jakarta, said that he and his neighbours had taken the initiative to make a banner expressing their view that fellow residents, who do not test negative for the coronavirus, should be prevented from returning home.

The neighbourhood was declared a "red" or high-risk zone for a few months at the end of last year after a fifth of some 150 residents were infected. No infections have been reported since early this year following a concerted effort to raise community awareness about the pandemic and ensure compliance with health protocols, such as avoiding crowds.

"Despite the ban (on mudik), they still went home, daring to pass through roadblocks and breach rules," Mr Ongis, a father of three, told The Straits Times. "As they managed to get home, we're seeking a way to make sure they won't spread the virus to us here," he said.

In another village, Gunung Sahari Utara, in the same sub-district, Mr Dicky Rahman and his neighbours have also put up similar banners, concerned about the return of more than 100 fellow residents.

"We fear there's a rise in cases at a time when the situation in Jakarta is quite safe," said the 42-year old massage therapist. "They should stay at home for a while and not come back here. But, we cannot ban them from coming back. So we must make sure that they are healthy before mingling with us again."

Apart from banners, residents of Jakarta have also placed stickers on the homes of returnees which, among other things, remind them of the need to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The city's health authorities, in the meantime, have ramped up testing of travellers.

The head of the Sawah Besar community health centre, Dr Lusi Widiastuti, said there were four test locations in the sub-district for returning travellers since Monday, and testing would continue until the end of May. Nearly 1,100 rapid antigen test kits and 2,200 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test kits were available for the purpose.

Two of the 198 travellers tested positive on the first two days, she said.

"Both have been treated at the Athletes Village," she added, referring to a Covid-19 emergency hospital.

Other measures taken by the authorities include random Covid-19 tests and mandatory checks on travellers. Travellers have also been advised to self-quarantine for five days upon returning from their home towns.

"The quarantine is crucial and must be undertaken to avert the transmission of Covid-19 to one's closest circles," Professor Wiku Adisasmito, spokesman for the Covid-19 mitigation task force, said on Tuesday (May 18).

Indonesia has the highest number of reported Covid-19 cases in South-east Asia. It has recorded 1.75 million infections and 48,669 fatalities as at Wednesday. Of this total, 420,459 cases and 7,002 deaths have occurred in Jakarta.

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