President Joko Widodo against lockdown out of fear of chaos like in India, Italy: spokesman

Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Photo: Twitter/@jokowi
Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Photo: Twitter/@jokowi

President Joko Widodo has been steadfast in his refusal to implement a nationwide or provincial lockdown despite loud calls from experts in the country, having ordered yesterday the implementation of “large-scale social restriction” and, potentially, civil emergency policies to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The Jakarta Provincial Government had reportedly requested that the province be placed under regional quarantine — akin to a provincial lockdown — given that the capital is the epicenter of COVID-19 outbreak in the country. The central government, which has the final say on all lockdown decisions, refused the request. 

Fadjroel Rachman, a presidential spokesperson, said Jokowi’s decision to implement large-scale social restriction instead was influenced by how lockdowns led to chaos in other countries.

“The president saw that regional quarantines like in India, Italy caused social chaos. If this is not planned properly, we could end up like those examples, so the president believes that large-scale social restriction is enough in Indonesia,” he said, as quoted by Detik.

India last week enforced a 21-day nationwide lockdown that led to widespread chaos in the country, with the poor particularly at risk of unemployment and hunger. Italy, which is entering its fourth week of a nationwide lockdown, is looking at extending the policy until at least Easter, potentially sowing further chaos in the country. 

Fadjroel previously said that civil emergency policies could be enforced if social restriction measures fail to contain the coronavirus. Critics say a civil emergency could pave the way for martial law, in which, by Indonesian law, the government is not obliged to provide food and essential goods to citizens during the emergency.

Large-scale social restriction essentially amounts to the kind of social distancing Indonesians have lived through for the past two weeks, such as the closure of schools, workplaces, and houses of worship. However, Fadjroel said that the new policy allows for more stern measures involving the police to ensure that people are keeping a safe distance from each other.

As of yesterday afternoon, Indonesia has confirmed 1,414 positive cases of COVID-19, including 122 deaths and 75 recoveries.

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