Indonesia president declares health emergency, bars entry of foreigners

Kyodo News

Posted at Mar 31 2020 10:04 PM

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Tuesday declared Indonesia under a "state of community health emergency" and announced imposition of "large-scale social restrictions" to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

"The government decided to declare a state of community health emergency," Jokowi told a press conference aired from the Bogor Presidential Palace, near Jakarta, after chairing a virtual, limited Cabinet meeting from there.

"To deal with the impacts of the outbreak...the option we have chosen is large-scale social restrictions," the president said.

"We must learn from the experiences of other countries, but we can't just imitate them because each country has its own characteristics," he added.

Earlier on the day, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in a virtual press conference that the government has decided to bar entry and transit of foreigners from all countries.

She said exceptions will be made for those holding limited or permanent residency, and diplomats and other officials with valid permits, though they will remain subject to health screening protocols.

No specific date was given for the envisioned entry ban. The government intends to issue a ministerial regulation on it soon.

Indonesia has been struggling to contain the spread of the respiratory disease known as COVID-19, with 1,528 people having tested positive for the virus as of Tuesday, with 136 fatalities.

The government has called on Indonesians to stay, work, pray and study at home. Authorities in the capital Jakarta have reduced public transportation services and police are clamping down on gatherings, including wedding receptions.

Meanwhile, rumors about a possible lockdown on Jakarta have caused Indonesians to speed up their annual exodus from Jakarta for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month that comes in May.

Thousands of Indonesians have already been making their way back to their hometowns by train, bus and other modes of transportation.

Jokowi said Monday that about 14,000 Indonesians had left the capital in over 800 buses over a period of less than 10 days.

Noting that the number does not include those who left via other modes of mass transportation, the president called for tougher social restrictions to stem the spread of the virus.