Indonesia plans law to punish rule breakers to contain virus

Provincial chiefs will determine the types of punishment for offenders, taking into account local traditions

JAKARTA Indonesia plans to fine violators of social-distancing rules under a new law as President Joko Widodo steps up efforts to contain the biggest outbreak of coronavirus in South-East Asia.

Provincial chiefs will determine the types of punishment for offenders, taking into account local traditions, Widodo told a meeting of governors in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, the president told a Cabinet meeting that people not wearing masks in public and those failing to maintain physical distance may be ordered to pay a fine or do social service.

Jokowi, as the president is known, has pointed to reluctance among Indonesians to wear masks as a key reason for the spread of the virus that has claimed almost 3,800 lives and infected 80,094 people (at press time), the most among South-East Asian nations. New cases have surged in recent weeks following the easing of mobility restrictions including in the capital Jakarta and Surabaya, the second-largest city, as the government seeks to minimise the hit to businesses and stem job losses.

New cases surge in Indonesia after cities began easing lockdown rules.

The president will issue a decree that will serve as an umbrella regulation allowing provincial governors to set rules, Jokowi’s office said in a statement. He said local governments may follow the example of West Java, which already punishes offenders of various health protocols.

West Java, home to almost 50 million people, will levy a fine of as much as 150,000 rupiah (RM43) on those not wearing masks in public from July 27, Governor Ridwan Kamil said in a statement. Authorities will enlist the help of police and military officers to enforce the rule, he said.

Containing the spread of the pandemic at the earliest was key to reviving the nation’s economy, which is forecast to slump 4.3% in the second quarter, according to Jokowi. The president also urged

 of the nation’s 34 provinces to accelerate government spending to stimulate growth and consumption.

The pandemic has battered Indonesia’s economy, spurring policymakers into action with almost US$50 billion (RM215 billion) in fiscal stimulus, interest-rate cuts and bond purchases. Jokowi has said the pandemic is having a big- ger impact on the nation than the Asian financial crisis more than two decades ago. — Bloomberg