December 23, 2022
JAKARTA – Preparations to welcome the first year-end holiday season without strict public health rules since the beginning of the pandemic are now in full swing, with the police planning to mobilize personnel to keep people safe during the festivities.
The National Police hosted a roll call in preparation for Operasi Lilin (Operation Candle), which aims to provide security for Christmas and New Year celebrations, at the National Monument (Monas) in Jakarta on Thursday. The operation also includes members of the Indonesian Military (TNI) and civilian volunteers.
“The security measures will amount to around 166,000 joint personnel,” National Police chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo said in a video clip posted on the National Police’s Twitter account.
“With regard to the potential terrorism threat [during Christmas], we have instructed all personnel to take the necessary measures to ensure that throughout the [Christmas] prayers and the 2023 New Year [festivities], everybody can be truly safe from these disturbances,” Listyo added.
Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo said on Monday that Operasi Lilin aimed to secure over 52,000 places of interest across the country starting from Thursday until Jan. 2, kompas.com reported. They included over 41,000 churches, hundreds of bus and train stations, airports and seaports, more than 3,700 tourist attractions and some 1,700 locations that would host New Year’s Eve celebrations, as well as nearly 3,700 markets and shopping centers.
According to Dedi, Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, who is the former leader of Ansor, the youth wing of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), would be sending 200,000 members of its paramilitary group Barisan Ansor Serbaguna (Banser) to aid the police.
Holidaymakers on the move
The National Police’ Traffic Corps, Dedi said, were preparing measures to mitigate congestion on roadways, which is expected to be elevated between Dec. 22 and Jan. 2, 2023.
This year-end holiday season will be the first since the pandemic started in which light activity restrictions will be in place, although holidaymakers will still have to have a third COVID-19 vaccine dose to travel domestically.
Preliminary research by the Transportation Ministry predicts that 16.35 percent of the nation’s population, or some 44.17 million people, will travel during the holiday season, up from the 13 percent in 2021 but still far below the 55 percent in 2019.
Greater Jakarta is expected to provide the lion’s share of travelers, with 7.1 million people, followed by East Java and West Java with 6.2 million people and 5.8 million, respectively.
While the government has said it will maintain level 1 public activity restrictions (PPKM), the lowest in the four-tiered system, over the holiday season, it has taken extra measures to avoid any unnecessary health risks, whether from COVID-19 transmission or from road accidents, during the year-end holidays.
In a circular issued on Sunday, the Health Ministry instructed regional health agencies to form special teams of medical workers and first responders to help local administrations set up health posts along the country’s main thoroughfares. The team will also be responsible for ensuring that local hospitals are ready to deal with any road accidents and a likely rise in COVID-19 cases as a result of the increased mobility, as well as setting up easily accessible vaccination services for travelers.
On Wednesday, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced that the government was preparing to lift all COVID-19-related public activity restrictions nationwide at the end of the year, after observing improvements over the past 12 months.
Public health expert Tjandra Yoga Aditama advised wearing masks on mass transportation and in crowded settings and urged the elderly to get their first or second booster dose before traveling.
Only 33 percent of the elderly had received a first booster dose as of Wednesday and 1.5 percent had gotten a second, Health Ministry data shows.
“If [anybody] has any [COVID-19 symptoms], don’t hesitate to get tested. And if the results are positive, self-isolate or seek treatment in health facilities if showing severe symptoms,” Tjandra added.