Passengers inside an MRT Jakarta train observing physical distancing on Friday. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Lockdown Still Not an Option for Indonesia: Chief Security Minister

BY :DIANA MARISKA

MARCH 23, 2020

Jakarta. Indonesia's chief security minister said a lockdown was still not an option to contain the spread of Covid-19 in Indonesia, saying that the Indonesian Military and the National Police would start to get involved in enforcing physical distancing in public.

The Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Mahfud M.D., said having considered several options, including a lockdown, the government decided it would press on with "physical distancing" – the new term it is using in place of "social distancing."

"Physical distancing means contacts with other people should be avoided. If it can't be avoided, people should keep at least a meter distance between each other. We also advise that the public follow the government's hygiene guidelines," Mahfud said in a video conference on Monday.

The minister said a lockdown would endanger the livelihood of people working in some sectors, especially daily workers.

"Some people suggest we should go for a lockdown. But there was outrage when we restricted public transportation. And when we suggested people should work from home, daily workers such as ojek [motorcycle taxi] drivers complained they would lose their income," Mahfud said.

He pointed out a lockdown in Italy has not stopped the spread of Covid-19 or reduced the death toll.

According to him, Italy's lockdown failure was due to lack of discipline.

"Fatality remains high [in Italy], up to 800 people per day, because the people don't follow the lockdown order," Mahfud said.

Mahfud also mentioned that the United Kingdom government's plan – which has since been canceled – to create "herd immunity" to coronavirus by letting people get infected so they can create their own antibody is "inhumane."

According to the MIT Technology Review, herd immunity is achieved when "the virus keeps spreading [until] so many people will have been infected and become immune [provided they survive] that the outbreak will fizzle out on its own as the germ finds it harder and harder to find a susceptible host."

Mahfud said physical distancing remains the best possible option for Indonesia to flatten the curve of the pandemic. 

Military and Police to Enforce Physical Distancing

Mahfud said the government is aware not everyone has been keen to follow the physical distancing order, with many still reluctant to cancel large events, including wedding parties

The government has now asked the police and the military to help enforce the practice.

"Not everyone understands the order or wants to follow it, so we've asked the police and the military to intervene to disperse crowds when necessary, with help from the municipal police," Mahfud said.

He said the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) will oversee the work of the police and the military in imposing the physical distancing order. 

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