Jakarta – An aerial view of vehicles lining up on toll roads used to evoke a feeling of hopelessness for many Muslims wishing to spend their Idul Fitri holiday with their families in their hometowns. But this year, such an image oddly brings a sigh of relief, if not a glimmer of hope, that we may finally be ready to live with COVID-19.
The coronavirus pandemic may not be over yet. The World Health Organization has time and again warned governments across the globe not to lose sight of the danger of letting the virus spread freely in communities. Testing must continue, and those carrying the virus must self-isolate until they are no longer contagious.
However, as we enter the third year of the pandemic, we have reasons to believe that we are now better protected than ever, with 79 percent and 95 percent of our targeted population having received the second and first dose of the vaccine, respectively. It is also worth noting that almost all residents (99.2 percent) of the islands of Java and Bali have had COVID-19 antibodies, according to a study commissioned by the government.
According to the study, conducted by the University of Indonesia's Public Health School in March, the high rate of immunity among the public was driven by both vaccination and prior infection, which may explain the short Omicron wave. Indonesia now has about 8,300 active COVID-19 cases, with daily new infections of less than 500.
In light of this encouraging development, the government has decided to bring back mudik (exodus) the tradition of traveling to one's hometown to celebrate Idul Fitri. It is estimated that more than 80 million people will join the Idul Fitri exodus this year, with more than 30 percent of them traveling from the regions in East Java and Greater Jakarta.
The government has required travelers to be vaccinated and take either an antigen or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before starting their journey, as well as wear masks and consistently follow COVID-19 health protocols during travel to reduce the risks of transmission. We hope that the public will follow these instructions to prevent another wave of infections.
The past two years have been painful for many of us as we grappled with the health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic. Each and every one of us deserves a respite, including hundreds of millions of Indonesian Muslims. This year's Ramadan is the first in which they have been able to congregate and pray at mosques, and this year's Idul Fitri would be the first for many to unite with their loved ones.
The first Idul Fitri during the pandemic was heartbreaking for many. It was the first for many grandparents, on that special day, to only be able to wave at their grandchildren who had to stay in the car for the safety of them both. Idul Fitri as we know it is returning, as that time of the year when we share joy and laughter with our relatives and friends.
For all the holiday travelers out there, stay safe, happy mudik, and for those who celebrate Idul Fitri, Eid Mubarak!