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Indonesia: Spread of COVID-19 Declared a National Disaster

On April 13, 2020, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”) issued Presidential Decree No. 12 of 2020 on Stipulation of the Non-Natural Disaster of the Spread of COVID-19 as a National Disaster. According to the Jakarta Post, the decree “states that efforts to mitigate the outbreak are to be led by the COVID-19 Task Force with the cooperation of regional administrations, ministries and national agencies.” Furthermore, “[g]overnor[s], regents and mayors, as the leaders of the COVID-19 task force [in their respective regions], have to mind the central government’s policies when making any policy.”

The declaration of the spread of COVID-19 as a national disaster was made under Law No. 24 of 2007 on Disaster Management and Law No. 4 of 1984 on Infectious Disease Outbreaks. Previously, on March 31, 2020, the President had issued Presidential Decree No. 11 of 2020 on Determination of COVID-19 Public Health Emergency under Law No. 6 of 2018 on Health Quarantine.

The Indonesian government has advised people in Indonesia to “stay at home and maintain distance in social interactions.” However, President Jokowi has so far been adamant that he will not impose a nationwide lockdown. The national COVID-19 Task Force has stated that such a measure would overwhelm the government, particularly as Law No. 6 of 2018 requires the government “to provide affected residents with basic provisions like food and medicine.”

To date, several parts of the country with high numbers of cases have put in place “large-scale social restrictions” (Pembatasan Sosial Berskala Besar, PSBB) in accordance with Government Regulation No. 21 of 2020 on Large-Scale Social Restrictions in Order to Accelerate the Management of  COVID-19, which was made under the above three laws. The minister of health has issued guidelines for such restrictions, and local governments are required to obtain approval from the Ministry of Health for the relevant measures, which can include restrictions on public, religious, and social events and gatherings, including the closure of workplaces and schools.

Those areas currently subject to PSBB include Jakarta; the municipalities of Bogor, Depok, and Bekasi; Bogor and Bekasi regencies; the municipalities of Tangerang and South Tangerang; Tangerang regency; and Pekanbaru municipality. According to the Jakarta Post, the Ministry of Health is processing additional PSBB requests from regional administrations.

Following the declaration of a national disaster, the head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency stated that “the government will remain consistent with the PSBB policy, but the COVID-19 task force will have broader authority.” This includes actions related to ensuring ease of access to human resources, equipment and logistics mobilization, immigration, customs and quarantine, permits, goods and services procurement, rescue, sector and agency command, and money and goods management and accountability.

The national COVID-19 Task Force was established by Presidential Decree No. 7 of 2020, issued on March 13, 2020, which was subsequently amended on March 20 by Presidential Decree No. 9 of 2020. The Task Force has launched a website for information and documents related to the pandemic and the response to it in Indonesia. It includes a “hoax buster” feature to be used as a reference in determining whether certain information is factual or not.

As of Thursday, April 16, 2020, Indonesia had recorded 5,516 cases of COVID-19, including 496 deaths, and the virus had spread to all of the country’s 34 provinces.