Jakarta suspends intercity buses to contain COVID-19

Ramadan, or the Islamic fasting month, is just weeks away. But unlike previous years, it’s been awfully quiet in Jakarta due to strong suggestions by local authorities to stay at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Indonesian Muslims will most likely have to celebrate Idul Fitri (Eid al-Fitr), the holiday following Ramadan, very differently this year. 

This is especially true for those who normally go to their hometowns, or their parents’ hometowns, a trip and tradition locally referred to as mudik. Many Jakarta residents rely on intercity and interprovincial buses to pulang kampung, but this form of transport may soon be halted by the Jakarta city government.  

So when The Jakarta Transportation Agency announced that, starting 6PM tonight, it would suspend Jakarta-based intercity and interprovincial buses for an indefinite period, it appeared that Idul Fitri travel would be affected for many this year.

Update: The suspension has since been paused in order to assess its economic impact. Current transportation health and safety measures being taken include keeping a safe distance between occupied seats within buses.


Jakarta is the epicenter of COVID-19

covid19 indonesia as of 30 march 2020Image credit: covid19.go.id

At the time of writing, there are 1,285 confirmed cases according to covid19.go.id, with 675 cases – roughly half of the national total – occurring in Jakarta. It’s hard to get accurate data because no mass tests have been conducted. This means that there could be many more people who have been infected but show no symptoms, or those who do but do not have access to medical care.

With so much uncertainty looming over such a large population, stopping buses from travelling out of Jakarta seems like the quickest way to slow down the spread of the virus, even if it means giving up family reunions in other cities or provinces in Jakarta.

The possible need to put Jakarta under local quarantine

empty jakarta on 26 march 2020
Jakarta on 26th March 2020
Image credit: @jktinfo

Despite previous travel warnings made by the Jakarta local government, The Jakarta Post reports that thousands of people still travelled to their hometowns. This means that putting Jakarta under a local quarantine might be a necessary step to prevent more people from leaving the city, which can potentially expose their family, friends, and relatives back home to the virus.

There’s already a serious shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in Indonesian hospitals, which poses a serious health threat to healthcare workers in charge of handling the already rising number of patients. If more areas in Indonesia were to be affected by the virus, it could lead to an even more chaotic nationwide health crisis.

Whether Jakarta will eventually be quarantined depends on the decision of the central government. Syafrin Liputo, head of The Jakarta Transportation Agency, stated that Jakarta is ready to comply. In the meantime, our personal responsibility also matters – so do avoid public places. Stay at home as much as possible, and don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly.

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Cover image adapted from: @agoeng_anoegrah 

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