Grace Nadia Chandra, Sahrudin Nurdin, Iman Rahman Cahyadi, Jakarta – The police have prepared to press charges against a man from Ternate, North Maluku, who last week donned his wife's burqa, a Muslim woman's attire covering one's face, to slip past Covid-19 travel checkpoint despite having tested positive with the disease.
The case shed light on the weaknesses in the government's strict activities and travel restrictions across the archipelago to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
Adjutant Chief Comr. Aditya Laksimada, the chief of Ternate Police, said his office had launched an investigation against the man, only identified by DW, to find any criminal offense. He said investigators have collected evidence and were confident criminal charges would soon follow.
"We are currently investigating the alleged crime of falsifying documents," Aditya said on Wednesday.
Last Sunday, DW departed Jakarta's Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport for Ternate dressed as his wife, Nurul. He bypassed checkpoints at the Halim airport by disguising in a headscarf and veil and showing his wife's negative Covid-19 test result documents.
He then managed to get onboard on a Citilink Indonesia flight to Sultan Babullah Airport. A flight attendant caught him changing clothes in the airplane lavatory and then reported him to Sultan Babullah airport authorities in Ternate.
"We received information from the Covid-19 Task Force that there was a suspicious passenger on board a flight," Muhamad Arif Gani, the operational head of the Ternate City Covid-19 Task Force, said on Sunday.
Upon arrival, DW was immediately detained by the task force already on standby on the tarmac. To make it worse, DW later was tested positive with novel coronavirus, putting his fellow passengers at risk of getting the Covid-19 disease.
"After we carried out a swab test and the passenger tested positive for Covid-19, we evacuated him from the airport to his home [for mandatory self-quarantine]," Arif said.
Ternate Police's Aditya said that the police would be ready to press charges when DW finishes his quarantine.
"We have collected evidence, including the documents that he used on behalf of his wife," he said.
The cases emerged as Ternate struggle to contain a spike in Covid-19 cases, with a steady uptick in confirmed cases, as well as an increase in the number of inpatients treated in hospitals. The largest city in North Maluku saw the disease infected 118 people for every 100,000 of its residents in the past week.
That mirrored the worsening situation in neighboring districts, East Halmahera and West Halmahera, which have 108 cases and 91 cases for every 100,000 population respectively, and Tidore, where 133 people are infected for every 100,000 residents.
This situation is mirrored throughout Indonesia, as the pandemic overwhelms the population despite the government's emergency lockdown and vaccination efforts.
On Wednesday, Indonesia recorded 1,383 Covid-19 deaths, the highest death toll since the pandemic began, bringing the total fatalities to 77,583. Indonesia also has one of the highest numbers of active cases globally, with 549,694 people currently infected.
The government has imposed strict restrictions on community activities, previously known as PPKM Darurat before changed into Level 4 PPKM to contain the virus spread. Apart from forcing schools, offices, shopping malls and place of worship to close, the restriction also impose stricter travel rules.
Under the rules, travelers must bring documents showing that they have taken two doses of the vaccine. If they are not vaccinated, they must show a negative result of the Covid-19 test taken just a day earlier. In the previous restriction rules, people with up to three-day-old test results were still eligible to travel between cities.
An observer said DW's case highlights the gap between the regulations and their implementation to contain the Covid-19 spread.
"Why is this kind of breach even possible? The Halim Perdanakusuma Airport must audit its passenger's checking system and review the competency of its security personnel," Alvin Lie, an aviation observer and former member of Indonesia Ombudsman, said.
Following the case, Resty Kusandarina, Citilink Indonesia's corporate secretary, said the airline would tighten passengers inspection to ensure passenger carry the proper travel documents.
"As a form of commitment in maintaining the values of flight safety and comfort, Citilink will coordinate more closely with all stakeholders to ensure the completeness of passenger travel documents following applicable terms and conditions," Resty said.