Indonesia: Thousands turned back to stop Idul Fitri exodus as country reports 4,891 new Covid-19 cases, 206 new deaths

Passengers of a ship from Dumai, Riau line up to get their travel documents checked at the arrival terminal of Sekupang Port, Batam, Riau Islands on April 21. A 'mudik' (exodus) ban on this year's Idul Fitri holiday forces some people to go on early homecoming trip for the Islamic holiday, slated for May 12 or 13. - Jakarta Post/ANN

JAKARTA, May 10 (Jakarta Post/ANN): Despite the government’s attempts to stop people from visiting their hometowns for Idul Fitri, resulting in tens of thousands of vehicles forced to make a U-turn at toll gates, some travelers have managed to find a way around the mudik (exodus) ban.

National Police Traffic Corps (Korlantas) chief Insp-Gen Istiono announced that that three days into the mudik ban, the police had stopped around 70,000 vehicles and instructed drivers to go back to where they came from after they failed to produce the necessary permits and travel requirements.

They were stopped at 381 checkpoints spread across Sumatra, Java and Bali, where a joint team of 155,000 personnel from the police, Indonesian Military (TNI), Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) and the Transportation Ministry have been deployed.

In Jakarta, some 6,500 vehicles were told to turn around because of the mudik ban, which started on Thursday and will last until May 17.

In a bid to curb Covid-19 transmission, the government imposed the ban for the second year, only allowing out-of-town travel for urgent matters, such as the death of a family member.

Public officials and public workers are allowed to travel for work-related matters but must carry a permission letter from their respective supervisors and regional heads that states their specific reasons for traveling.

Those who wish to travel during the ban must also obtain an entry and exit permit (SIKM) issued by their respective local administrations.

While a drop in toll road users and certain modes of public transportation has been reported from before the mudik ban, the number of travelers, regardless of their purpose, was still in the tens of thousands.

On the second day of the ban, the Transportation Ministry recorded a 16 percent increase in plane passengers traveling for non-mudik purposes from the first day.

In total, authorities in West Java have had to force at least 22,000 out of the 64,000 vehicles intercepted at 158 checkpoints to make a U-turn as of Friday, said West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil.

Despite these efforts, office worker Inas was able to return to her hometown in Subang, West Java, from Bandung by motorcycle, without bringing any required documents.

“I deliberately chose to travel at night because the officers must be feeling cold, so the monitoring will be loose.” Other travelers in East Java used the same strategy and also took shortcuts to avoid checkpoints.

East Java Police traffic director Sr. Comr. Latif Usman said the police would monitor these smaller, alternative roads for 24 hours. And this operation will last at least until the end of May.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 4,891 within one day to 1,718,575, with the death toll adding by 206 to 47,218, the Health Ministry said on Monday (May 10).

According to the ministry, 6,338 more people were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 1,574,615.

The virus has spread to all the country's 34 provinces.

Specifically, within the past 24 hours, West Java recorded 1,070 new cases, Central Java 854, Jakarta 694, Riau 551 and East Java 206.

No new positive cases were found in four provinces, namely Gorontalo, Maluku, North Maluku and Papua. - Jakarta Post/ANN

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