Katharina R. Lestari and Konradus Epa – Indonesia has stopped foreign visitors and workers from entering the country as part of measures to tighten emergency restrictions on public activities to suppress the spread of Covid-19.
The ban, issued by Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Hamonangan Laoly, took effect on July 23.
"Regarding this matter, I hope that we can handle the Covid-19 pandemic in a better way," he told reporters.
Indonesia has become a major epicenter of the global pandemic in recent weeks with an average of 50,000 new infections and death tolls now exceeding 1,400 per day.
Only diplomats and people providing medical or humanitarian assistance, as well as crews of international air and sea transport, can enter Indonesia.
"This expansion of restrictions on foreigners entering Indonesia is carried out in order to suppress the spread of Covid-19," Laoly said.
Vincentius Hargo Mandirahardjo, chairman of the Jakarta-based Association of Indonesian Catholic Intellectuals and a member of the Catholic Network Against Covid-19 (JKMC-19), said the restriction was a long time coming.
"We must learn from other countries which implement temporary restrictions on foreigners entering their countries – Singapore, for example. We needed a similar policy, indeed, to suppress the spread of Covid-19," he told UCA News.
"Suppressing the spread of Covid-19 is not only about implementing restrictions on public activities at home. Foreign arrivals must also get serious attention."
The spiraling infection and death rates prompted President Joko Widodo to tighten social restrictions across Java and Bali earlier this month, which he extended this week to July 25.
The extension prompted thousands of people, who included street vendors and drivers, to stage protests over loss of income.
The Catholic Church, however, has backed the policy along with the World Health Organization (WHO), which urged the Indonesian government not to loosen restrictions for now.
"Indonesia is currently facing a very high transmission level, and it is indicative of the utmost importance of implementing stringent public health and social measures, especially movement restrictions, throughout the country," the WHO said on July 22.
Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, executive secretary of the Indonesian bishops' Commission for the Laity, said: "The emergency restrictions have caused many people difficulties but the government needs to defend the lives of its people. As citizens, we should comply to save our nation."
Jakarta Archdiocese also backs the move. "We support it if it slows down the spread of the virus," said Father Vincentius Adi Prasojo, the archdiocese secretary.
Indonesia has recorded 3,033,339 Covid-19 cases and 79,032 deaths with the addition of 1,449 new deaths on July 22.