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Task force warns against mass gatherings amid renewed concerns over COVID-19 transmission

Jakarta Post - November 16, 2020

Jakarta – National COVID-19 task force head Doni Monardo has once again advised the public against gathering in large numbers to minimize the risk of further coronavirus transmission in light of a recent spike in confirmed cases.

The retired army general reiterated his warning that mass gatherings could almost guarantee viral transmission among the public.

"Activities that create crowds could almost certainly cause [COVID-19] transmission," Doni said during a press conference at the COVID-19 emergency hospital in Kemayoran Athletes Village on Sunday as quoted by kompas.com.

He further warned that people aged 36 years and older with comorbidities were especially vulnerable to infection in mass gatherings.

"Based on data we collected over the past eight months, [the mortality rate] among people with comorbidities and the elderly reached 80 to 85 percent, which is very high," Doni said, urging the public to comply with existing health protocols.

The task force confirmed 5,444 new cases on Friday, the highest single-day figure the country has seen, as the cumulative death toll passed 15,000, two weeks after a long weekend during which thousands of people traveled throughout the country.

Concerns of COVID-19 transmission were further raised following the return of Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab to Indonesia.

Thousands of his supporters – including FPI members – marched to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, to welcome him on Nov. 10, causing severe congestion on the road to the airport.

The cleric – along with the FPI – then organized his daughter's wedding, which also served to commemorate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, on Saturday evening, attracting thousands of guests sitting in close proximity to each other.

The Jakarta Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) slapped Rizieq with a Rp 50 million (US$3,536) fine after finding him guilty of violating physical distancing measures currently in effect to prevent coronavirus transmission among the public.

Rizieq's son-in-law, Hanif Alatas, claimed his family had already paid the fine.

According to Doni, the Jakarta administration never gave the cleric permission to throw a public wedding for his daughter in the first place. "Please note that the Jakarta administration never gave [Rizieq] permission," he said.

He went on to say that Central Jakarta Mayor Bayu Meghantara had sent an official letter to Rizieq, requesting him to apply physical distancing measures and limit the number of guests attending his daughter's wedding.

Addressing the controversy surrounding the task force's decision to provide face masks and hand sanitizer for attendees, Doni claimed that such an initiative was meant to enforce COVID-19 protocols among the public.

"Once again, I apologize if the steps we've taken have displeased many people," he said, adding that the safety of the people was of utmost importance.

He previously expressed dismay over Rizieq's cavalier attitude toward available health protocols, claiming that his public activities over the past week had resulted in public disregard of the physical distancing rule, among other regulations. (rfa)

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/11/16/task-force-warns-against-mass-gatherings-amid-renewed-concerns-over-covid-19-transmission.htm