Return of the Mask: Outdoor face coverings ‘a necessity’, says President Jokowi

President Joko Widodo. Photo: Presidential Secretariat
President Joko Widodo. Photo: Presidential Secretariat

Get ready to cover up your beautiful faces indoors and outdoors again, folks, as President Joko Widodo has called for the return of strict mask mandates at all public places.

Speaking in Jakarta yesterday, the head of state stressed that COVID-19 is still around, so the nation can’t let their guards — and masks — down just yet.

“For that reason, be it indoors or outdoors, wearing a mask is still a necessity,” Jokowi said.

It was the president himself who said in May that masks were no longer mandatory outdoors as Indonesia’s COVID-19 caseload remained low then.

In recent weeks, amid rising new infections, Vice President Ma’ruf Amin first suggested that the outdoor mask rule may return as a precautionary measure, with Minister of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin later clarifying that it is a measure that will only be taken out of necessity.

It seems that time has come with President Jokowi’s statement, though it must be noted that the reinstatement of the outdoor mask policy has not been formalized in any official regulations as of this article’s publication.

Under the latest rules, masks are still mandatory in enclosed spaces, including on public transportation. Those with health risks, including the elderly, as well as those who show even the mildest symptoms known to be associated with COVID-19, are still advised to mask up wherever they go.

Indonesia has consistently recorded around 2,000 new COVID-19 cases daily over the past couple of weeks, which represents a rise from earlier this year but is still far lower than the devastating numbers in 2021. 

On July 10, however, there was a cause of concern as Indonesia’s overall COVID-19 testing positivity rate reached 8.5 percent — the highest since March. Out of all the PCR tests recorded for that day, 23.58 percent came back positive.

Indonesia has been tightening mobility curbs amid a steady increase in new COVID-19 infections in recent weeks. The country is expected to see a significant increase in infections in the third week of July due to the proliferation of the Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

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