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Cities Across Indonesia Anticipate a Potential Surge of Covid-19 Cases as the Year-end Holiday Approaches

NEWS | 3 December 2020
The Indonesian government has made the final decision to cut the annual collective leave this December to control potential crowding that could significantly generate new transmissions of Covid-19. Photo by Refhad on Unsplash/NOW!JAKARTA

Indonesia’s Covid-19 cases surpassed 500,000 and it is likely not getting better anytime soon as the daily cases are relatively higher with an average of 6,000 new cases per day recorded throughout November 2020. Recently, Jakarta Governor Anis Baswedan and Deputy Governor Ahmad Riza Patria were also confirmed positive for Covid-19, adding to the names of government top figures who have been infected by the contagious virus since the outbreak in March.

Keep in mind that the SARS-CoV-2 can lead to fatality as the disease is rated with high contagion for some parts of the community. Regent North Morowali  Aptripel Tumimomor, Mayor of Tanjungpinang Syahrul, Mayor of Banjarbaru Nadmi Adhani are among the government figures who have died due to the Covid-19.

The rising trend of Covid-19 figures in Indonesia is relatively predictable based on the data collected in prior months. This year-end holiday can be a determining key whether the trend will surge or not since a significant number of new cases tend to be found after the long holiday in 2020, Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) reported.

Until today, Indonesia’s capital city Jakarta has the most cases compared to other cities in Indonesia with more than 130,000 followed by the second largest accumulated across  East Java province.  As the city with the highest population, Jakarta’s residents have a tradition to leave the city during the holiday season and, at this point, the upcoming festive season makes all levels of government, and state agencies, as well as the medical front liners nervous.

In November, there have been almost 50,000 new cases recorded which adds a significant number of Covid-19 figures in Indonesia in only a month. This rapid outbreak has lead to the decision to continue extending the transitional period which has caused to slightly, temper the outcome of the pandemic handling. Nothing has changed significantly since the initial surge in August.

Another challenge is the unpredictable weather during the rainy season which might cause other health issues especially to those who are more sensitive to preexisting conditions are likely to be infected by the novel coronavirus. Yet, communities in remote areas with high-risk of natural disasters may also find difficulties if they need first aid for both seasonal healthcare disease and Covid-19.

Central Government Officially Cut the Annual Leave in December

On 1 December, the Indonesian government finally announced to cut the total number of days for this year's annual leave/collective leave (cuti bersama) this December.  Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Cultural Affairs Muhadjir Effendy said, after a limited cabinet meeting, that the Indonesian government came to the decision to cut three days of the total days of the annual leave from 28 to 30 December. Hence, Indonesians will keep working in the span of those three days.

Previously, Indonesians had assumed that they will have a total of 11 consecutive days of annual leave (including weekends). As the Covid-19 is raging across the nation, the strategy to separate Christmas and New Year Holidays are to control community mobilisation and avoid mass exoduses expected to be starting on the third week of December.

As a result, Indonesia will have two annual leaves in close proximity, thus collective leave for Christmas is from 24 to 27 December and replacement annual leave from Eid AL-Fitr is on 31 December.

The government predicts that the separation of the annual leave this year will also split the crowd that will potentially pack the streets giving those to choose the day to go to their holiday destination, vice versa when people return to the city.

Learn from the Past

Meanwhile, the spokesperson of Indonesia Covid-19 Task Force Wiku Adisasmito asked the public to prioritize the public safety over self. Adisastimo urged the public to learn from experiences during the long holiday period in the previous months which showed a significant surge of virus transmission in the post-holiday.

The long holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, the celebration of the Republic of Indonesia's Independence Day, as well as the long holidays at the end of October and early November are the causes of the increase in new transmission of Covid-19 in Indonesia. "From the data we have obtained, there has been an increase in positive cases after the long holidays," Adisasmito said in a press release.

According to him, the team at Task Force also understands the conditions of business in the tourism sector that hope for some redemption during this year's holiday which many stakeholders expect. However, it should be noted that an uncontrolled increase of positive cases of Covid-19 could also have a negative impact on the business that will also risk the sustainable operation of the business with no exception for tourism industry.

On the other hand, Ministry of Tourism and Culture has been campaigning to practice social distancing, and avoid destinations with potential large crowds that could lead to higher risk of massive transmission. The ministry also urged the business players in tourism industry to provide safety standards in order to create safe environment from both local and international tourists.