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Indonesia's Widodo lays down law on Covid-19 protocols

Social distancing violators face punishment, Medan archbishop recovers from coronavirus infection

Indonesia's Widodo lays down law on Covid-19 protocols

President Joko Widodo is enforcing health protocols to tackle Covid-19. (Photo courtesy of Cabinet Secretariat)

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has issued a presidential instruction on enforcing health protocols to curb the rising number of Covid-19 cases.

According to an Aug. 6 Cabinet Secretariat statement, the nine-page presidential instruction, signed by the president on Aug. 4, aims to strengthen efforts and improve the effectiveness of prevention measures against Covid-19 across the country.

The move comes amid criticism that the Indonesian government has failed to act more decisively in dealing with the pandemic.

“Governors, district heads and mayors are required to greatly improve the implementation of health protocols to prevent the spread of Covid-19 by involving society, religious, tribal and other public leaders, as well as other social elements,” the instruction said.

Widodo also called on them to formulate and issue policies that include, among others, the mandatory following of health protocols by the public, businesses and those responsible for public facilities such as places of worship.

“[Such policies] include punishing violators of health protocols,” the instruction said. Punishments include oral or written warnings, community service, fines and the temporary suspension of businesses or organizations.

Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, a member of the Jakarta-based Catholic Network Against Covid-19 (JKMC), welcomed the move but questioned why Widodo didn’t do it sooner.

“However, better late than never,” he told UCA News. “The presidential instruction is the government’s response to the current situation and serves as a medium for various stakeholders to work together in an effective way.”

Father Siswantoko, who is also secretary of the bishops’ Commission for the Laity, said punishments were a necessary evil if measures to curb the pandemic are to work.

“Many still ignore health protocols, so the government must get tough. Punishment of violators is unavoidable,” he said.

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Archbishop Kornelius Sipayung of Medan. (Photo supplied)

Archbishop and priests recover 

Meanwhile, an archbishop and four priests from Medan Archdiocese in North Sumatra province have recovered after being infected with Covid-19, according to an archdiocesan official.

Capuchin Archbishop Kornelius Sipayung of Medan and the four priests, including vicar general Father Michael Manurung, have all returned home, the archdiocese’s spokesman, Capuchin Father Benyamin A.C. Purba, said in a video message posted on social media on Aug. 6.

“Monsignor Kornelius Sipayung is now staying at his residence but still has to self-isolate for four days,” said the priest, adding that the archbishop had tested positive on July 15.

“Capuchin Father Michael Manurung, our vicar general … has returned to the episcopal residence,” he said.

Besides the churchmen, two archdiocesan employees and a nun, who also tested positive for Covid-19, had also returned home, Father Purba said.

“They must be careful so that they do not expose themselves to the coronavirus again,” he added.

Thanking all medical workers, Archbishop Sipayung said in a separate video message that he will resume his pastoral duties soon. “I will be able to meet with you all within the next few days,” he said.

As of Aug. 6, Indonesia had recorded 118,753 Covid-19 cases and 5,521 deaths.

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