As cases surge, Christmas travel sets off alarm bells
by Mathias Hariyadi

Many Indonesians are expected to return to their villages and cities of origin for the holidays, but the rising number of coronavirus cases is worrying. Yesterday hit a record. For doctors, the situation is "really worrying". The pandemic’s collateral damages are a blow to tourism in Bali, where unemployment and acute chronic malnutrition are up.


Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Christmas and New Year holidays are traditionally an opportunity for many Indonesians to return to their villages or cities of origin, but this year the rising number of cases of the novel coronavirus risks complicating the long-awaited chance to go home.

Yesterday, Indonesian health authorities released their latest pandemic figures, which show a record 8,369 cases for the whole country.

For Dr Caris, who works in South Jakarta, “it is really worrying”. Initially, she planned to visit her hometown of Yogyakarta, for a couple of weeks. But now “My whole family has changed their plans,” she explained. Even her son and daughter-in-law, who are both medical specialists, no longer intend to travel due to the ongoing health emergency.

For others, travel would have meant being placed under quarantine at special sites, once they reached their towns of origin. This is the case in Solo, in central Java, where local authorities issued a warning that two weeks of self-isolation will be mandatory for people from outside the city.

Such measures complicate the plans of many people, including Yenny, who wanted to bring her elderly mother back home after nine months of trying to find "refuge" in Tangerang in the middle of the pandemic.

Over the past few days, the recent spike in cases is due to increased reporting that was made public in the last 24 hours. The sharp jump brought Indonesia's total infections to 557,877 with 17,355 deaths, 156 yesterday alone.

Anti-COVID-19 Task force spokesman Wiku Adisasmito said that yesterday’s spike was due to data reporting and verification delays. In Papua, for example, all cases since November 19 were included in yesterday’s national figures.

Still, the trend is upward. “This shows that the rate of transmission is still increasing," he said. People more and more flout health protocols, and “this negligence could be fatal.”

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan and his deputy Ahmad Riza Patria are among the VIPs who tested positive for COVID-19. Indonesian Manpower Minister Ida Fauziyah is another one.

World-famous tourist hotspot Bali has also been hit by the coronavirus, with devastating consequences for the local economy. Thousands of unemployed people are now going hungry, one of the many collateral effects of the pandemic.

Nationwide, unemployment rose to 5.6 per cent with a loss of 105,000 jobs according to the Central Statistics Agency.

“We see a lot of people who are hungry and haven’t eaten for a few days with no funds to buy food,” said Sarah Chapman, from Yayasan Solemen Indonesia.

The NGO, which helps the poor and the disabled, has turned its attention now to families who once made a living from the tourism industry.

For her colleague Robert Epstein, “chronic and acute malnutrition” are getting worse.