Indonesia president bans Eid al-Fitr travel

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo takes a look at the emergency hospital handling of COVID-19 in Kemayoran Athletes Village in Jakarta, Indonesia March 23, 2020 in this photo taken by Antara Foto – Reuters

JAKARTA : Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Tuesday banned people in the world's most populous Muslim nation from returning to their hometown to celebrate an Islamic holiday during the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement came amid fears from health experts Indonesia could face an explosion of coronavirus cases which could infect more than a million people after Ramadan, unless the government takes stricter measures.

Widodo initially only banned nearly six million of the country's civil servants, soldiers, police officers, and state employees from going on the annual exodus, known in Indonesia as "Mudik", to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the dawn-to-sunset fasting during Ramadan.

Last year, about 33 million Indonesians left their cities to visit relatives during the holiday.

Widodo said government surveys which showed 24% people were still willing to return home, caused him to issue the ban and he asked all elements of his administration to prepare measures in enforcing the restriction.

As of Tuesday Indonesia has reported 6,760 coronavirus cases and 590 deaths.