Indonesians to skip family bonding time in Eid al-Fitr amid COVID-19 outbreak

JAKARTA-- Waljinah, a 56-year-old Indonesian woman, did not go back to her hometown in Central Java's Klaten, during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan this year following the government's prohibition of the exodus tradition, locally known as "mudik," to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Waljinah, who like many Indonesians goes by a single name, has been living in Indonesia's capital Jakarta with her 60-year-old husband for more than 20 years.

The Muslim couple, working as street vendors, usually return to their hometown to celebrate Eid al-Fitr - the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan - with their two children and three grandchildren.

This year's Ramadan in Indonesia began since Thursday evening and will end on May 23.

"I'm wondering what it would be like to celebrate Eid al-Fitr without my grandchildren. The moment would be so different," said Waljinah, sitting alone on a street at the Palmerah market in West Jakarta on Thursday selling vegetables.

Another migrant in the capital, Ridwan Ghani, will also not return to his hometown in Sumedang, West Java, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ghani, who has worked as a driver for ride-hailing service provider Go-Jek for more than three years, had planned to celebrate the holy day with his family.

"I just got married earlier this year and planned to introduce my wife to my family and relatives in my village. It's very unfortunate as this won't happen," said the 27-year-old man.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Tuesday announced the prohibition of "mudik" to curb the spread of COVID-19, about two weeks after his administration issued regulations prohibiting civil servants, military and police personnel from returning to their hometowns.

A decree issued by the Transportation Ministry stated that people who are found violating the ban will face punishment that orders them to return to the point of departure or to pay fines.

The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia with a population totaling around 260 million surpassed 8,000 on Friday. Meanwhile, the total number of fatalities rose to 689, the highest in Southeast Asia.

Its capital city of Jakarta, home to some 10 million people, suffers the highest toll with 326 deaths, followed by West Java 77, East Java 67, Central Java 54 and the rest recorded in other regions.

Authorities have been conducting rapid tests in areas where cases were detected.

Having agreed with the "mudik" ban, both Waljinah and Ghani expressed hopes that the government would consistently provide social and financial aid to informal workers and other marginalized communities during the pandemic.

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal