Dio Suhenda, Jakarta – Authorities are gearing up measures to prevent a surge of COVID-19 confirmed cases amid the return of mudik (exodus) travelers from their hometown following the Idul Fitri holiday.
The government predicted that people would travel back, also known as arus balik (counter-exodus), between Sunday and May 20.
Among the measures prepared by the national COVID-19 task force is to increase random COVID-19 testing on intercity travelers. The test would be focused on passengers of private vehicles and public transportation passing through toll roads and arterial roads.
The task force will also form a special team in Lampung tasked with checking people entering Java from Sumatra following a rise of confirmed cases in many provinces across Indonesia's westernmost island.
According to the task force, the number of active cases in Sumatra has risen by 27 percent so far this month. On the other hand, Java recorded an 11 percent drop in active cases during the same period.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 mortality rate has increased by 17 percent in Sumatra and dropped by 16 percent in Java.
"Regional administrations across Sumatra are required to conduct a thorough check on documents carried by travelers during arus balik," task force spokesperson Wiku Adisasmito said during a press briefing on Thursday.
In Jakarta, the provincial administration is working with the police and the Indonesian Military (TNI) to anticipate the large volume of travelers during the arus balik to the capital.
Most travelers will travel back to Jakarta during this period. Authorities estimate that around 20 million people leave the capital annually during the mudik period, with most of them returning to Jakarta after the Idul Fitri holiday.
"We realize that the large movement of people is usually followed by a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases," Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said on Friday as quoted by kompas.com.
He added that authorities would screen private vehicles and public transportation at various entry points to the capital. The governor has also ordered task forces at the community unit (RW) level to monitor the arrival of travelers in their neighborhood and perform COVID-19 tests.
The community task force will also be responsible for reporting through an online application the health of its residents following the arus balik period.
The National Police will also extend their operation of checking vehicles at toll gates and major roads until May 24. The operation, dubbed Operation Ketupat, was initially planned to end on Sunday.
National Police Traffic Corps (Korlantas) operation division chief Sr. Comr. Rudy Antariksawan said joint personnel would continue checking vehicles at 381 checkpoints set up across the country. A joint team of 155,000 personnel from the police, TNI, Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) and the Transportation Ministry have been deployed to the checkpoints.
"We will order vehicles going on mudik trips to turn back during the operation extension period," Rudy said on Friday as quoted by kompas.com.
On the first day of Idul Fitri on Thursday, officers at the West Cikarang toll gate checkpoint in West Java turned back nearly 900 vehicles attempting to leave the capital.
In total, the joint team turned back around 64,000 vehicles at various checkpoints under the jurisdiction of the Jakarta Police Traffic Corps between May 6 and 13. Up to 47,627 motorcyclists were required to turn around.
The checkpoints also caught 17 travel services attempting to smuggle travelers out of Jakarta throughout the eight days of the mudik ban.