Acting transportation minister Luhut Binsar Panjaitan has indefinitely postponed the Jakarta Transportation Agency’s policy to temporarily halt interprovincial bus operations to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Luhut, the Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister, sought to have an assessment on the economic impact of such a policy, which might prevent Jakarta residents from going to their hometowns for mudik (exodus), according to the Transportation Ministry’s spokeswoman Ardita Irawati..
“According to [the minister’s] instruction, the implementation of the operational ban is suspended while waiting for a comprehensive assessment of the economic impact, in line with the President’s instruction in a meeting [on Monday morning],” Ardita told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
The ministry, therefore, is dealing with the fast-spreading COVID-19 by spraying disinfectant on public transportation facilities, providing hand sanitizer, scanning the temperature of staff members, offering masks to passengers showing symptoms such as cough and arranging the seats so as to maintain a safe distance between passengers.
The Jakarta Transportation Agency initially planned on Sunday to suspend operations of interprovincial and intercity buses starting from Monday to stop the coronavirus from spreading further outside the capital, as Jakarta residents recently left the capital for their hometowns.
COVID-19, a respiratory illness first discovered in Wuhan city in Hubei province in China, has infected 698 people in Jakarta as of Monday. The capital, which the government named the national epicenter of the outbreak, recorded 74 deaths and 48 recoveries.
Thousands left the capital last week, suggesting the government’s warning to discourage them from mudik was barely effective. In neighboring Central Java, for example, Jepara recorded 1,776 arrivals as of March 24, Purwokerto recorded 2,323 arrivals and Wonogiri recorded 2,625 arrivals.
Central Java recorded 81 people with COVID-19, the fifth-highest number of confirmed cases in the country. Of them, seven people have died, while no recoveries have been reported yet.
The government reported on Monday 129 new people with the contagious disease, bringing the national number of confirmed cases to 1,414. (dfr)