04/24/2020, 15.56
INDONESIA
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Pandemic: Indonesians against the suspension of commercial flights

by Mathias Hariyadi

The government lockdown starts today until 1 June. Many fear being stranded away from home. Some rail and road links have also been closed. Restrictions were introduced to stop Mudik, but Jakarta has not imposed a full lockdown.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Many Indonesians are opposed to the government's decision to suspend all domestic and international commercial flights, starting today until 1 June in order to combat the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected so far 7,775 people in the country with 647 deaths.

The suspension of flights is part of the government's plan to stop Mudik, the annual exodus of millions of people who leave the big cities to return to their hometowns to meet families and celebrate Eid al Fitr, the end of Ramadan.

The travel ban also applies to long-distance trains on the island of Java, and some roads, but cargo planes, humanitarian flights and government travel are not affected.

The measure has come a shock to business people and ordinary Indonesians.

“We are afraid of being stranded,” said Clarissa, a medical practitioner from Jakarta, speaking to AsiaNews. One of her children may not be able to come home next week. “He is studying andrology at Faculty of Medicine at Airlangga University in Surabaya, working on his thesis.

Endi, an entrepreneur who divides his time between Jakarta and West Kalimantan province, says he is worried about his business.

Indonesia is a vast country with thousands of islands. Without air travel, people would have to rely on ferries, which take a long time and are uncomfortable.

With a touch of irony, the mayor of Surakarta (Central Java), Francis Xavier Hadi Rudyatmo, said that "even those who have decided the lockdown are required to respect it.” He means Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who is originally from Surakarta, which he often visits.

Fearing widespread unrest, Indonesian authorities have not imposed a full lockdown. Nevertheless, the goal remains pandemic containment via large-scale social restrictions (Pembatasan Sosial Berskala Besar), including social distancing, as well as restrictions on travel and work.

Traditional markets and small shops however remain open but for fewer hours.

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