Coronavirus: Indonesia’s Turn to Close Borders

Indonesia, coronavirus, visa, lockdown


This Friday, Indonesia will also suspend free visa-on-arrivals facilities to all foreign nationalities for a month’s time. However, the government is however not planning to lock down cities, as he might be scared of provoking acts of violence. 

The measure comes as if suddenly Indonesia woke up from a dream. For weeks, Indonesia stuck to fairy theories: a local ‘scientist’ claimed that hot and humid weather was killing the virus; then Indonesia Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, told to an audience of Muslim clerics in late February that “with many clerics and ulema always reading the Qunut prayer, including me, coronavirus has stayed away from Indonesia.”

A few days later, Indonesia Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto downplayed the public’s concerns by telling that Indonesian people have a good immune system. Explaining why a group of Indonesian crew members on the World Dream cruise ship was tested negative to the COVID-19 while some passengers were not, he told to local newspapers: “The Indonesian crew all tested negative for coronavirus because of their bodies’ good immune system.”

Indonesia has also been keen to blame other countries or/and nationalities to the few detected cases inside the archipelago. A dispute even started with Singapore, the city-state being accused of not communicating names of visitors who turned COVID-19 positive after arriving from Indonesia.

All these allegations only contribute to the unsettling part of the public who started to question the country’s ability to really detect the virus and to deal with it. According to Rizky, a young local entrepreneur who lives in Jakarta, the absence of local consciousness -including officials- comes from the lack of care of most people. ” While some people realise that there is a serious risk of contamination, many other people just think to have fun and enjoy themselves. They do not look at the big picture,” he explains.

With now COVID-19 cases growing every day- they were 172 cases recorded on March 17, up 38 cases compared to a day before, the government starts to realise that fairy theories are not anymore an option to feel protected…

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, and Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto during a press conference in February © Reuters

>With effect from Friday 20 March, at 00:00 hrs West Indonesian Time, the Indonesian Government is introducing a new travel policy with the following implications. Visa-Free Arrival, Visa on Arrival and Free Diplomatic / Service Visa policies for foreign visitors from all countries are suspended for one month.

Every foreigner visiting Indonesia is required to obtain a visa from an Indonesian embassy. When applying for a visa, the traveller needs to produce a health certificate issued by the health authority of each country, certifying that he is immune from the COVID-19. Travellers who visited the following countries within the previous 14 days are not permitted to enter or transit to Indonesia; Iran, Italy, Vatican, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

For Indonesian citizens returning from one of the risk countries, an additional inspection will be carried out by the Port Health Office upon arrival. In the case of COVID-19 initial symptoms, there will be an observation period at a government facility for 14 days. If no initial symptoms are found, an independent quarantine of 14 days is recommended.

There were rumours of a possible lockdown of the country. Some shops already closed but this has just been a decision of the owner. In a speech, Indonesia President Joko Widodo explained that no lockdown was for the time being planned but social distancing should be implemented. How long would this last as the government already warn citizens of a coming spike in COVID-19 cases? ” I think that the government has to find a middle way to handle the situation. As many people here lack the education to assess the true situation, if there is a lockdown of the cities, some might become out of control and even turn violent,” adds Rizky. ” We also lack a strong government able to really monitor the situation,” he concludes.