West Java plans to operate 24-hour checkpoints to enforce 'mudik' ban, as sneaky travellers bring coronavirus home

Police officers conduct a screening on vehicles in Bekasi, West Java, on April 25, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The West Java Covid-19 rapid response task force is mulling a plan to set up 24-hour checkpoints in the region to prevent mudik (exodus) travellers prior to the Idul Fitri holiday at the end of May.

Task force secretary Daud Achmad said the roads connecting Jakarta and West Java were relatively empty during the day when authorities stood by at the established checkpoints. However, the roads started to get crowded during the night as the checkpoints were lifted.

"We find, after conducting evaluations, that (private vehicles) are using the roads at night. We certainly don't want this to happen," Mr Daud said in a teleconference on Wednesday (April 29), adding that authorities would work harder to make the establishment of checkpoints effective.

West Java is the region second-worst hit by Covid-19 in Indonesia, with 1,009 confirmed cases as of Wednesday afternoon and 79 fatalities. The country's Covid-19 epicentre is Jakarta with 4,092 cases and 370 deaths so far.

To contain the further spread of the disease, the government has banned the mudik prior to the most-celebrated Islamic holiday, which usually sees millions of people travelling from urban centres to their hometowns.

Many residents of regions across Java have been ignoring the government's mudik ban and are insisting on travelling home undetected, even though some tested positive for Covid-19 upon arriving in their respective hometowns.

Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo on Tuesday said he had received reports and photographs showing travellers returning to their hometowns across the province, with some coming by dangerous means.

"Some have put their cars inside trucks and covered them with other stuff. There were also some who travelled in a container (on the back of a truck), although that's not confirmed yet," Mr Ganjar said in Semarang.

The governor added that he had received a report from the Cilacap regent, who said that some people recently arrived in the regency despite the mudik ban had tested positive for Covid-19.

Cilacap Health Agency head Pramesti Griana Dewi confirmed that eight residents of Cimanggu district tested positive for the disease. They had travelled to Cilacap in the same car from Jakarta.

The travellers had tested positive following a rapid test and were now declared patients under surveillance (PDPs). They would undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm of their medical status.

"We will announce if the swab test results come back positive," Ms Pramesti told tribunnews.com on Sunday, adding that the eight patients showed no medical symptoms of having contracted the coronavirus.

Mr Ganjar asserted that going on mudik secretly would be a danger to both the travellers and others. He called on people under his jurisdiction to be open in communicating with officials if they had to go home under urgent circumstances.

"If you really have to go home, you should request a letter of permission. I think the government will wisely consider it," he said, asking that residents should stay where they were while the government distributed necessary social aid.

According to the Jakarta Police, the number of vehicles leaving Jakarta increased two days prior to the enforcement of the mudik ban on Friday. Once the policy was imposed, the traffic police had asked around 1,200 motorists attempting to leave Greater Jakarta to turn around, as reported by kompas.com.

The number of vehicles told to turn around amounted to 3,300 on Sunday, as revealed by Jakarta Police spokesman senior commissioner Yusri Yunus.

Authorities have set up checkpoints in several locations across Java to monitor the flow of vehicles between cities and provinces following the mudik ban.

People found violating the ban were subject to the maximum punishment of fines amounting to 100 million rupiah (S$9,425) and a year's imprisonment, as stipulated in the 2018 Health Quarantine Law.

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