Indonesia May Cancel Year-end Holidays

Doctors are pressuring the government to act as the number of Covid-19 infections continues to surge.

Exploring an empty beach on Nusa Penida, Bali. (Photo: Alfiano Sutianto/Unsplash)

Indonesia-based travelers looking forward to an 11-day break spanning the Christmas and New Year period might be up for disappointment if the country’s coronavirus outbreak shows no signs of waning.

According to a report in CNBC Indonesia, Wiku Adisasmito, a spokesman for the national Covid-19 Task Force, suggested that the status of next month’s much-awaited long holiday had not yet been finalized. “Regardless of whether it is shortened or eliminated, the government’s decision will be made in an effort to protect the people. Public safety is the highest law,” he said yesterday.

Wiku added that the onus was on ordinary Indonesians to be disciplined when it came to safety guidelines to slow and ultimately prevent the spread of the virus. Dubbed the “3M” protocols, these include wearing a mask, washing one’s hands, and keeping a safe distance from other people and avoiding crowds. “If the people do not comply with protocols, there will be consequences for decisions taken regarding the year-end holiday.”

Earlier this week, senior figures at the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) suggested that the government should postpone the four days of collective leave scheduled for December 28–31, originally taken from the Idul Fitri (a.k.a. Lebaran) holiday in May. The daily count of new coronavirus cases in Indonesia hit a record high of 5,444 on November 13, exactly two weeks after a nationwide long holiday at the end of October. That five-day period saw domestic travelers crowding roads and highways out of Jakarta, and significant numbers of vacationers boarding flights to destinations such as Bali, where hotel occupancy rates rose 30 percent compared to just nine percent throughout the earlier months of the pandemic.

The IDI said the upcoming year-end holidays would trigger high population mobility and crowding, increasing the potential for Covid-19 transmission. Doctors also warned that allowing them to go ahead would put a strain on hospitals and medical personnel, while raising the risk of infection among healthcare workers. Isolation wards in Jakarta, the worst-hit province with a cumulative total of just over 123,000 confirmed cases, are currently about 63 percent full, and 68 percent of ICU beds have been taken up by Covid-19 patients.

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