January 4, 2023
JAKARTA – The government has reminded the public not to lower their guard against the coronavirus even though the COVID-19 curbs had been lifted, while instructing regional administrations to continue promoting vaccination as well as mask-wearing, though it is no longer mandatory.
A ministerial instruction on revoking the public activity restrictions (PPKM) that Home Minister Tito Karnavian signed on Saturday still contains provisions requiring regional administrations to take “proactive” and “persuasive” measures to prevent a surge in caseload as Indonesia inches toward transitioning to an endemic.
To this end, local administrations are instructed to advise, not mandate, the public to keep wearing masks, particularly on public transportation, in crowds and when ill, as well as regularly wash their hands and continue to use the PeduliLindungi tracing app. They must also encourage people to get vaccinated, either with the primary series (doses one and two) or a booster dose (dose three), and to get tested if they show symptoms.
The ministerial instruction also stipulates that the COVID-19 task force is being maintained at both the national and regional levels to continue monitoring the COVID-19 situation on the ground.
While the PPKM has been fully lifted, National COVID-19 Task Force spokesman Wiku Adisasmito told The Jakarta Post that other health restrictions, including for domestic and international travel, were still “in effect”.
According to a task force circular issued in September, international travelers 18 years and above must have completed their two-dose primary vaccination series at least two weeks before arriving in Indonesia. If their body temperature exceeds 37.5 degrees Celsius on arrival, they will be required to take a PCR test.
Meanwhile, the primary series plus one booster dose are required for domestic travel.
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“Let’s all implement these policies properly, as the public should remain cautious and alert to COVID-19 transmissions,” Wiku said on Monday.
PPKM could return
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced on Friday that the PPKM had been lifted just before the turn of the year because most people in the country already had antibodies against the virus, and because the pandemic had been under control over the last few months.
Following a minor spike in November that reached over 8,000 daily cases, Indonesia had reported less than 1,000 new cases a day since Dec. 23, with just 366 new cases recorded on New Year’s Day.
While revoking the PPKM also meant removing any restrictions on capacity at all offices and public spaces, Jokowi still advised the public to follow the 3M health protocols of mask-wearing, handwashing and social distancing.
Tito also said the government might reimpose the PPKM in the event of a surge in cases.
Meanwhile, some experts have cautioned that the pandemic is far from over.
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Epidemiologist Dicky Budiman from Australia’s Griffith University said lifting the PPKM during the year-end holidays could leave Indonesia vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. The shift in policy could also encourage large parts of the population to lower their guard and abandon mask-wearing altogether.
Despite the lingering concerns, the President said on Monday that revoking the PPKM would help the economy to recover. During a visit to Central Jakarta’s Tanah Abang Market, once one of the busiest markets in the capital before the pandemic struck, Jokowi said he hoped the revocation of the PPKM would “bring a sense of optimism”.
“2022 was not an easy year, and neither was the year before that. So we hope that in 2023 there will be optimism, as the PPKM system has been revoked,” Jokowi says in an official video, in which he can be seen touring the market without a mask.
He adds that he is hoping for “a new sense of optimism without the PPKM” to emerge in not just Tanah Abang market, but also all other markets across the archipelago.