Thousands make late dash to leave Jakarta before Hari Raya

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Thousands have made a dash to return home from Jakarta, despite curbs

JAKARTA : Thousands of Indonesians made a late dash to leave Jakarta for their hometowns this week, even as the authorities sought to stem the traditional mass exodus at the end of the Muslim fasting month to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

President Joko Widodo has banned people travelling for the holiday at the end of Ramadan, but despite concern from medical experts, some people have been allowed to go if they provide proof of reasons to travel and a health certificate.

"I'm going back home because my work contract is finished," said Ms Irawati Utami, 36, a domestic worker ahead of her flight home.

Indonesia announced a ban on domestic air and sea travel at the start of Ramadan to contain the outbreak, but has since eased some of those restrictions, causing confusion and prompting criticism.

The police set up checkpoints on main roads to try to prevent people from leaving the capital, the epicentre for Covid-19 in the archipelago of more than 260 million people.


Still, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo said this week he expected one million people to return to his province from greater Jakarta this year, even though this was far fewer than nearly 6 million last year.

Indonesia reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus cases yesterday, bringing its total to 20,162. It recorded 973 infections and 36 deaths, taking the official number of fatalities to 1,278.

Experts worry travel for the Eid holiday could lead to new infections. "It is very possible people will try and go anyway. If they do, I fear they may become sources of transmission in their hometowns," said epidemiologist Panji Fortuna Hadisoemarto from Padjadjaran University.

Malaysian highways were also jammed with people returning to their hometowns, though it is unclear how many had permits to do so.

Traffic flow from Kuala Lumpur heading north and south started to slow down yesterday, ahead of Hari Raya Aidilfitri weekend.

A PLUS highway spokesman said traffic had started to build up slowly on major highways from 8am yesterday.

Selangor deputy police chief Arjunaidi Mohamed said the number of vehicles told to turn back at roadblocks has gone down. "As of Wednesday, the ratio of vehicles told to turn back at roadblocks was one out of five vehicles," he said.

Malaysia yesterday reported 50 new cases of Covid-19, raising its total to 7,059. Total fatalities remained at 114.

Of the 50 infections, 35 were from the Bukit Jalil immigration detention centre, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

On the new cluster, Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said 645 people had been tested as of yesterday. "From the sample results, 35 positive cases have been detected, 400 are negative while 210 are still pending, " he added.

The Philippines reported four deaths and 213 cases yesterday. It now has 13,434 infections and 846 deaths.

Thailand reported three infections and no new deaths, bringing its total to 3,037 cases and 56 fatalities. - REUTERS, THE STAR