Indonesia is seeing drastic COVID-19 case surges in seven provinces – all of which are major mudik Eid exodus destinations – in the lead up to the Islamic holiday which falls on May 12-14.
The Riau Islands saw the most dramatic surge recently, recording an increase in COVID-19 cases by 183.9 percent in the week between April 11-30. Riau province recorded a 131.7 percent increase in the same period, followed by Lampung with 100.8 percent, Bangka Belitung Islands with 99.5 percent, Bengkulu with 94.9 percent, West Sumatra with 62.9 percent, and West Kalimantan with 59.9 percent.
The government is banning mudik from May 6-17 and has tightened travel restrictions for a week before and after the ban, but the government says the surge in the seven provinces is at least partly attributable to those who returned to their hometowns from major cities early to beat the ban.
"We are seeing a stream of mudik travelers despite the upcoming ban; around 7 percent [of Indonesia's total population] may slip through even as we have tried to anticipate them," said the Health Ministry's Infectious Diseases Prevention and Control Director Siti Nadia Tarmizi today.
Seven percent of Indonesia's population of 270 million is 18.9 million.
COVID-19 Task Force chief Doni Monardo said Indonesia may see a 93 percent surge in cases nationally if authorities were as relaxed in enforcing the mudik ban as last year.
"It may be followed with a huge spike in deaths too," he said, urging people to stay at home during the Eid holiday.
After some initial reluctance, President Joko Widodo last year banned mudik for the Eid holiday in May with Indonesia two months into officially reporting its first COVID-19 cases. Even so, millions still left for their hometowns, especially before the ban came in effect.
Before last year's Eid holiday, Indonesia recorded new cases numbering in the hundreds daily. The daily count shot beyond the 1,000 cases mark a couple of weeks after Eid, which was partly attributed to mudik.